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Data-Base Access Made As Easy As 'Open Sesame' for Pacific Bell's Customer Service Representatives.

To telco service representatives out West, "open sesame" isn't just a magic phrase. It describes the ease with which those reps can now gain access to valuable data bases since Pacific Bell improved its business data processing operations and customer service with an interactive communications system that involves some 10,000 shared terminals and circuits.

The system, provided by Minneapolis-based Control Data Corporation, enables Pacific Bell (PB) and Nevada Bell service representatives at terminals throughout California and Nevada to access multiple data-base applications residing on more than 10 host computers located at four major data centers. Handling One and a Half Million Messages Daily

"We handle about one and a half million messages a day," said PB's Kenneth Hughes, district staff manager of network system planning, located in San Francisco. "Our service representatives can have the information to answer inquiries in about five seconds, even though they are accessing various computers."

Previously, Pacific Bell's service terminals were dedicated to one circuit and one application, or data base. Now, an individual terminal can access a number of computer systems, and terminals on the same circuit can also access many different systems.

In addition to speeding customer response, the communications system enables PB to better utilize its computer mainframes through a constant flow of current, on-line information and by off-loading certain tasks to minicomputers.

The communications network includes 18 Cyber 1000-2 processors, which are enhanced versions of the Control Data communications system installed by financial institutions and aeronautics companies in the 1970s. Model Has Multiple Processors

Each Model 1000-2 includes multiple processors housed in separate bays that contain all the hardware elements of the system except the console, magnetic tape drives and interface adapter for the host computer. The multiple-processor arrangement allows for load sharing.

In case one processor is isolated off-line for a particular function, the adjacent unit can assume full responsibility. Transfer of a processor's load can be initiated by the operator or automatically triggered to handle any unscheduled interruption.

Pacific Bell canlink 128 circuits to a single Cyber 1000-2 processor with data transmission speeds of up to 9,600 bits per second. This is twice the speed and connectability of the same equipment manufacturer's earlier message switching system.

The telco currently operates Cyber systems linked to about 10,000 terminals located throughout California and Nevada. The network will grow to 16,000 terminals by the end of 1984, as more applications are added. System Serves Operations Support

Application of the advanced processors at PB has been in the operations support systems department, where communications and data transfer are most vital to business operations. The functions served include:

Inventory Control--This provides the status of circuits, equipment and parts. It is constantly updated with information generated from customer orders and internal requests for Pacific Bell facilities.

Service-Order Retrieval/Distribution--This application has the heaviest communications traffic because it supports response to customer orders and must communicate with various data bases. For example, a customer request may involve data bases reflecting availability of service and equipment, installation schedule and customer record (whether a user is current), or development of new-service information.

Business Office Support System--This application develops and maintains customer records for billing and account collections, and is fed primarily by the service-order function. It supports the customer-order function, the billing process and a variety of statistical reports.

"The ability of each of these functions to access all data bases gives the system a high level of efficiency," said PB's Hughes. "When a customer calls for new service or a change of service, the representative can immediately secure all of the pertinent information."

software programs make the new data available in a variety of reports, and integrate it with the proper data base. Programming also provides directives for installation crews and other personnel responsible for completing a customer order.

Although the communications system was a major addition to Pacific Bell's computer operations, it required minimal training for operators. They were merely told that additional information would be available on their terminals and how to secure it. Training Was Inexpensive

"We initially migrated to this architecture without having to invest significant dollars in training and with little trauma for operators," Hughes said.

PB began investigating improved network communications in 1976, when it became apparent that dedicated communications networks were becoming too expensive and difficult to manage.

As part of the Bell System then, PB participated with AT&T Bell Labs and other Bell operating companies in determining what computer product could best meet the current needs of various telephone systems and also support future growth.

"The present network architecture can be expanded to meet our needs through the 1980s," noted Hughes. "With the network independent of host computers, we have flexibility that enables us to easily make modifications as conditions change."
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1984
Words:797
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