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DIDS Remote Terminal System Offered as Solution to Logistics Automation Problems.

For the past 20 years the Defense Logistics Service Center (DLSC), located in Battle Creek, Michigan, has provided catalog data and services to the Armed Forces, Department of Defense activities, other Federal Civil agencies, and participating foreign governments.

During the last decade, the primary means by which those services have been offered is the Defense Integrated Data System (DIDS), the focal point of the Federal Catalog System.

DIDS houses the central repository of item identification and item-related logistics management data. It provides data for the support of multiple logistics applications such as provisioning, cataloging, standardization, inventory control and surplus property reutilization. The data base, known as the Total Item Record (TIR) consists of over ten billion characters of information and is maintained as a completely integrated file, designed to fully utilize advanced telecommunications and automatic data processing concepts. DIDS On-Line Since 1973

DIDS has been on-line since 1973 to most wholesale logistics activities through DoD's Automatic Digital Network (AUTODIN). Using sophisticated electrical data communications interfaced between two independent AUTODIN communications computers, information from logistics customers is sent to and from DIDS data bases at speeds of up to 50 kb/s. These extremely high data transfer rates allowed DLSC to process over 300 million, 80-column card equivalents in 1982.

Through the use of the AUTODIN system, a simplified, transaction-oriented, machine-to-machine interface between DIDS and the logistics community was established. Computer-generated transactions are formatted into AUTODIN messages by the Service/Agencies and sent to DLSC where processing takes place in a batch mode. The resulting output is returned, generally within one day. The types of information provided consists of National STock Number (NSN) assignments, searches of the TIR by the manufacturers codes and part numbers to determine stock numbers, interrogations by means of a known NSN to obtain design engineering data, sources of supply, packaging, transportation, and warehousing information.

At the time DIDs was designed and developed, DLSC realized a human-to-machine (remote terminal) interface was desirable. Immediate access to data stored at DLSC by logisticians all over the country, through the use of Input/Output devices located in their immediate work areas, was the goal. However, this aspect of DIDS, which was essentially an enhancement, was postponed in favor of higher priority requirements during implementation.

In late 1976, a remote terminal was installed in the Aviation Supply Office in Philadelphia which provided direct access to the DIDS data base. During a six-month test period, the impact of this terminal on overall DIDS processing proved insignificant and the decision was made to proceed with total system requirements development and an economic analysis.

By comparing actions and costs of the manual procedures then in use by services/agencies to obtain information from DLSC to those which could be used to submit transactions via a remote device, DLSC calculated an annual cost avoidance of $6.8 million. In addition, the intangible benefits predicted were: shorter supply support turn-around times; reduction of local stock number assignments; reduction of repair line downtime; improved operational readiness through the use of remote interrogation of DIDS when local ADPE systems are down, and improved customer satisfaction since technicians could provide their customer with the most current information in a more timely manner.

On the basic of the information compiled, DLSC concluded the tangible and intangible benefits to be derived from a remote terminal system far exceeded the cost. Therefore, a decision was made to proceed with system design and implementation.

To provide the required data and services through a remote system in an acceptable time frame, the organization determined a modification of the current system would be the most expedient approach. The most difficult problem to resolve, however, proved to be the selection of a telecommunications delivery system.

With the Functional Description already developed and coordinated with the service/agency focal points, the terminal population had been determined to be 169 with total transaction volumes estimated to be 35,000 per day. Several types of telecommunications networks and methods were investigated in terms of capabilities, costs, security and reliability. Dedicated leased lines, with and without multiplexing, dial-up systems and AUTODIN's Query/Response (Q/R) service were examined. It quickly became apparent that any option other than the common-user network approach of AUTODIN Q/R would be cost prohibitive.

At the same time a search was underway for an effective telecommunications system to support DIDS. Headquarters Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and HQ DLA System's Automation Center (DSAC) in Columbus, Ohio, were in the process of establishing a teleprocessing network to provide an interactive capability for authorized system users to access/input data for computer systems operated at the DLA Centers and Depots. Dubbed the DLANET, the system utilized IBM-compatible front-end processors (FEP) as "Nodes" on the network and initially could only be interfaced to IBM or IBM-like host computers. Since DID is run on a Burroughs mainframe, the FEPs had to be modified, software-wise, to facilitate communications.

The heart of the DLANET are the nodes, which are front-end processors manufactured by NCR Comten. They provide the interface between the host computers and local terminals or remote hosts and terminals. DLSC Connected to Six Nodes

Each nodal site has an NCR Comten that is interconnected with other nodal sites by high-speed trunk lines. DLSC is connected to six other nodes via seven 9.6 kb/s trunks to handle the projected 35,000 DIDS transactions estimated to be sent on a daily basis once the system is fully operational.

Use of the DLANET allows a remotely located terminal to sign-on to the DIDS. This establishes a logical connection to the DLSC host where both terminal and mainframe "believe" they are talking directly to each other. The user can then submit one of three types of transactions for immediate processing and return: interrogation by NIIN; search by NIIN; or search by reference number.

Should large volume search and interrogation transactions be required, an overnight processing procedure also exists. In addition to the three types of transactions listed above, DLSC can also do a search by reference number for other than provisioning and preprocurement. Search by characteristics will be added sometime early this year.

By providing both an immediate and overnight response, two important objectives of the system were accomplished: the more critical information needs of the customers are fulfilled in a real-time environment; and batch processed transactions sent back to the customer over their normal means can be easily interfaced to customer ADP systems.

In essence, the real advantage of remote terminal access to the DIDS is the input device location in the work areas of DLSC's customer logisticians.

With over 170 terminals at approximately 35 different locations within CONUS, it is believed the surface has just been scratched. Requests have already been received to expand operations from the current 14 hours per day, five days per week, to 24 hours per day, seven days per week. In addition, discussions are underway to export the DLANET and thus access to DIDS, to both the European and Pacific theaters.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Downey, J.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1984
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