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Enterprise mail: time to look at the big picture; 10 billion E-mail messages will be exchanged in 1991.


Many industry experts believe we are about to experience explosive growth in use of electronic mail.

An industry expert predicts the number of electronic-mail messages exchanged will grow from 3 billion in 1989 to 10 billion in 1991.

To support this level of growth, enterprises will institutionalize electronic mail, integrating their present multivendor E-mail networks into "enterprise-mail" networks.

An enterprise network--multiple, dissimilar subnet-works connected to a backbone that runs through an entire organization--implies use of backbone mail servers that provide a set of services to department mail servers.

These services would include wide-area routing, directory, object transformation, library, etc.

The union of mail subnetworks, backbone mail servers, and backbone transport services constitutes the enterprise-mail network.

Because most large customers base their enterprise backbone networks on SNA, an IBM host is a natural execution environment for the backbone mail server.

In the future, backbone mail servers will be capable of executing on Unix platforms as well.

Though many see an enterprise network as a technological construct, it's every bit as much a manifestation of organizational responsibility.

Responsibility for the backbone typically exists at an enterprise level; responsibility for the various subnetworks lies at the departmental level.

Unlock The Power

Central planning unlocks the potential of enterprise mail.

In the past, computer systems and networks were added to satisfy the needs of specific departments, not the entire enterprise.

The systems were not capable of communicating with each other.

This led to isolated pockets of information.

Rather than growing incrementally, as does a departmental network, an enterprise network is planned and implemented by an organization's MIS staff or systems-integration consultant.


When applied to the evolving issue of electronic mail, the question is this:

In an anticipated era of any-to-any connectivity brought about by international standards, why are the leading organizations implementing electronic-mail backbone networks instead of assuming the various subnetworks will simply mesh as needed?

At its essence, the reason is that an electronic-mail backbone is the only means to manage complexity in a large network.

It's the only way we can create the infrastructure necessary to deliver network service to the enterprise.

With it, we achieve bandwidth efficiency, hierarchical network management, and administrative control.

Without it, we could never scale today's networks into enterprise networks.

Look To X.500

A major capability of the backbone is network management, and one of the most important network-management services to be provided is directory services.

The international standard, X.500, provides a firm architectural foundation for this service.

As this standard is deployed in enterprise-mail networks, the backbone will provide the major portion of the directory information base (DIB), communicating with department directory servers via X.500-defined directory-service protocols.

In the meantime, a very important function of backbone directory services will be to automatically synchronize department system directories so each may contain, if the administrator so chooses, a complete network directory.

Administrators expand the value of the local subnetwork directory, delivering more information to the user's native directory without incurring tremendous administrative overhead.

An example of an existing department directory which can be augmented in this manner is the Wang Office directory.

Once again, the importance of managing the distribution of directory information makes it imperative that it be managed as part of the backbone.

Today, many think about directories as containing information about users within the enterprise.

What About Outside?

In reality, the directory needs to manage information about external users as well.

Backbone directory services can provide valuable capabilities to users of the network.

As external users mail items into the enterprise, automatic registration of these users in the directory will permit internal users to easily access them in the future.

Electronic-mail technology has the potential to transform communication across all industries as profoundly as the telephone did 100 years ago.

Just as our counterparts of 100 years ago could barely understand the implication of the telephone on world commerce, so can we today barely fathom the marvels the upcoming electronic-mail explosion will bring.

Electronic mail will become an important platform for building applications.

Those that doubt that statement need only examine their own desktops.

Generating, manipulating, storing, and exchanging information is the means of managerial work.

Exchanging information is what makes organizations work. Mail is fundamental to the process.

Until now, electronic mail has been restricted to intra-enterprise communications.

As we begin to exploit the potential of X.400, extending our reach to inter-enterprise communication, we will usher in a new age of electronic-mail potential.

Those enterprises that are most prepared to exploit this potential by implementing enterprise-mail networks will gain competitive advantage.

Those that wait will face a competitive mandate to follow along.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Rathmann, James L.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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