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DuPont data can take a hit.


Stand outside DuPont's agricultural-chemicals plant in LaPorte, Texas, during one of the swift storms that routinely lash Galveston Bay.

Lightning crackles off the water. The dust in the air becomes energized around you.

But Bob Morrow and Ron Rand sit back, stay dry, and don't worry as much as they used to.

The $10,000 concentrators and thousands of dollars in computer equipment are safe.

Lightning does strike the same place twice. Sometimes it strikes a dozen times the same night. Just ask Morrow, DuPont's senior communications officer at the facility.

The plant is a typical industrial-chemical environment. Overhead pipelines crisscross the area. Metal reactor towers rise up everywhere. Copper wires add to the overhead maze. Many work locations are simply trailers moved from one month to the next.

Although the plant backbone is fiber-optic, frequent moves and numerous two-data-terminal offices make it uneconomical to run fiber to desktops. So copper runs to more than half of the data and voice outlets.

The plant is served by AT&T's Information System Network (ISN).

Irate Users

Many times during a particularly relentless recent spate of stroms that lit up the Bay, nodes crashed. If lightning smoked a card bad enough, a whole shelf would go down.

"We get storms daily from late June to September," says Rand, AT&T's dedicated technician to DuPont.

It wasn't unusual to see six or seven AIM cards burned every time a storm came through. That translated to 50 irate users wondering why their terminals blew. All POs, shipping, receiving, and railcar tracking is on DuPont's data network> the storms spelled computer chaos.

Normally, the communications port got burned. That costs $1000 plus $1300 for the AIM eight-card. There was always the possibility of frying the IBMs, too--a chargeoff of $1000 for a dumb terminal, $5000 for a PC.

Morrow wasn't even sure the AT&T warranty would cover an ISN on copper cable.

To save its network and the technicians' sanity, DuPont turned to Citel five-pin modules to protect its 12-volt lines.

Maximum frame voltage on the ISN is 12 volts. Depending on the applications, 4 to 9 volts is typical.

The data protectors are rated good for 500 hits.

What makes them so durable is hybrid circuitry.

Tripolar gas tubes on the input stage provide high capacity. Three fast-acting diodes on the output stage provide billionth-of-a-second response time.

Less Night Driving

DuPont protects 800 to 900 telephone stations and a like number of computer endpoints.

The units cost about $12 per protector. Since there are two on each end, it costs about $45 to protect a single user's $2500 to $5000 investment in computers.

Before, if storm woke Rand in the middle of the night, he dressed and drove to the plant. He knew lightning had hit someplace on the 6000 pairs of copper cable.

Rand does less night driving now.

"As long as the frame is properly grounded, those units do the job," he says.

The only failure on th 303 connectors since the protectors were installed was due to improper grounding.

When a surge protector has taken its quota of hits, the PC it is protecting starts to get garbage, and Rand changes the bad protector.
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Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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