Gould Solves Communications Problem with PBX Enhancement.
Gould AMI Semiconductors, based in Santa Clara, California, is one of the corporation's divisions. Specializing in the development of MOS (metal-oxide-silicon) application-specific integrated circuits, this unit also provides silicon-foundry facilities, computer-aided design resources and other products.
In december 1984, Gould AMI commissioned a new 5,000-square-foot design center to provide its customers with all the hardware, software and personnel support necessary to design customized integrated circuits. The design center represents a key ingredient for the division's offering of custom circuits, since success in this business is providing automated computer-aided design (CAD) tools to help customers design and develop their circuits easily and quickly.
In the planning of the various services it wanted to offer to its customers, the division needed to provide voice and data communications for the design center. It chose to enahnce it Dimension PBX with an integrated voice/data product by David Systems called the David Information Manager.
Prior to the product, Gould AMI had a typical multi-vendor communications environment. On the telecommunications side, it had been leasing a Dimension 2000 system from AT&T.
"The division was using about 1400 lines, or about half-capcity. In the capital-intensive semiconductor business, we pay careful attention to capital acquisitions, since we have to deal with a cyclical marektplace," notes John Hart, corporate telecommunications director for Gould Incorporated, so when AMI installed the Dimension PBX four years ago, it was decided that the best route at that time was to lease it.
Dedicated Wires Create Problems
On the data-communications side, AMI used point-to-point communications lines between its minicomputers and terminals/workstations.
"Dedicated point-to-point wires have created a lot of problems at AMI," reports its senior buyer, Cindy Smades. "Each time a data user needed to be added or moved, new wiring needed to be laid."
Traditionally, the installers used a "retire-in-place" methodology for the old wiring, feeling it was easier to leave the old wiring in place and install new wiring as needed.
"We contracted with outside installers to handle the cabling work, and were paying them $500 every time we moved a terminal. We soon found that the retire-in-place program resulted in crowded wiring ducts. At the same time, sometimes the wrong wires were cut, disconnecting some operational equipment," Smades says.
"Our environment here is quite dynamic, because equipment resources must be shifted several times a year. At that rate, our cost of moving a terminal exceeded the cost of the terminal itself in less than a year! We were aware of that issue and began looking for solutions," she explains.
Needs for More Data Services
Besides the management of the network costs, there were additional needs for more data services. With the opening of the new design center, the need to access multiple computer applications from the same terminals/workstations became more apparent.
Two rooms house computers dedicated to the support of the design-center operation. The need was to allow the center's users, and the respective AMI support staff, to employ and one of the minicomputers (a Prime 750, an 850 and a DEC VAX 11/780) that ran the various CAD software. The ability to switch between host computers would allow users to change computer support during the course of the design process, since different parts of the CAD software ran on the various hosts. This was due, in part, to the center's activities to port the software from the Primes to the DEC.
In addition to the design-center minicomputers, Gould AMI also had an HP 3000 minicomputers, which was used for office automation applications such as word processing and electronic mail. Its use extended to users beyond the design-center operation. The requirement, in this case, was to provide terminal distribution and port contention for the HP users, and also to provide those users with the capability of accessing other data applications residing on the DEC or the Prime systems. If the access to the HP were improved, the division then could expand the use of the office automation functions to more users without spending money on further expansion of the minicomputer.
These new requirements forced Gould AMI to begin evaluating a new communications system that not only would enable users to switch data, but which also could fit in with its existing telecommunications environment.
"For some time, Gould Incorporated had been implementing integrated voice and data systems," Hart explains. "The primary benefits that we experienced from the integrated voice/data systems had been the cost-effectiveness of using the twisted-pair telephone wiring for voice and data, as well as the data-switching services."
Gould has a management structure that includes a combination of centralization and decentralization. Each of the corporation's individual divisions is autonomous, but works with corporate on specific projects where cooperative efforts make the the company operate more effciently.
On the telecommunications side, the telecommunications group at corporate is responsible for both voice and data communications. This policy was chosen because it helped maximize the communications planning process.
Replacing Existing PBXs Costly
Gould uses Rolm and AT&T as suppliers at many of its divisions, with Rolm providing integrated voice and data at numerous Gould locations. But to install Rolm systems at every site meant replacement of the existing PBX, which could have required unnecessary expenditures. In many cases, such as the Dimension 2000 at Gould AMI, the PBX was not that old, had plenty of capacity, and provided excellent voice service. The corporation has multiple sites with Dimension PBXs.
"We evaluated the possibilities of purchasing our existing base of PBX systems located throughout many of our divisions. Last year, we were approached by David Systems with a product that provided Dimension and Centrex enhancements. The product, the David Information Manager, gave the existing PBX all of the data capabilities we needed without having to buy a new voice/data PBX," Hart reports.
It was an attractive new alternative, since AMI only would need to purchase what it could immediately use, and the design center offered a perfect application. AMI wanted to provide the best environment and leading-edge tools in the design center for customer use. It felt it could accomplish this with the enhancement product without disrputing the rest of the users.
Once the decision was made to consider and to test the concept of a PBX enhancement, the division began discussions with David Systems to define a pilot program. The vendor was looking for a beta test site at the time and the match with AMI was made.
"As a company in the business of high-technology, we liked the idea of participating in the trial of a new product concept with leading-edge technology. What was particularly impressive was the product's ability to transmit two megabits per second over the existing signel twisted-pair wiring," says Hart.
Phased Implementation Decided
A phased implementation program was decided upon, with the gradual introduction of capabilities as well as users onto the system. Since the enhancement addition wouldn't interfere with the normal operation of the PBX, and since it only would affect those users who received the new capabilities, cutover disruption would be minimized, making planning and training much easier.
The new system was installed in the design center over one weekend in October 1984. Choosing a location was easy, since the cabinet is about the size of a two-drawer file cabinet and doesn't require any special environment or power. The cabinet was located in the intermediate distribution frame (IDF) closet in the design center, interpositioned, much like key telephone equipment, between the PBX, located across the street in another building, and the desks of the users needing the integrated voice/data capabilities.
No New Wiring Needed
Wiring that previously ran from the individual desks to the IDF was used for the 2.048-megabit-per-second David-Link. Users needing the upgrade replaced their analog phone sets with the David-Set. No new wiring was needed, since the set used the existing one-pair wiring already in place from the previously installed analog set.
"Adding more users to the test system was simple," Smades reports. "Using the existing wiring made my job easier and meant faster response to users' new service requests."
The center has 10 separate customer offices, each large enough to accommodate two to three people from a company. At the time of the test, each office was equipped with eitehr a color-graphics terminal, symbolic-layout terminal, or a commercial workstation. For the test, each office also was equipped with sets with asynchronous RS-232-C adapters that provided communication interfaces for both voice and data communications.
Group facilities in the design center include a conference room, a software demonstration area, and two training rooms for classes. The offices surround a modularized open-office area occupied by AMI training and applications personnel, so staff support it always available nearby. For the test, both the group facilities and the modular offices also were equipped with sets and adapters for both voice and data communications.
"An important benefit that the enhanced system brought to us was that, through software changes with the product's administrative capability, we could provide customized configurations for each application," Smades notes. "Typically, we have customers who come here for a period of time to design their circuits, then leave. For example, if a new design group came along and needed to have a unique key-system group configuration and specific access to certain computer ports, the Manager could be easily re-configured."
Other features that were made available by the system included data switching, port contention, dial by name, speakerphone, and single-button access to PBX voice features.
Fifrty-Seven Users in Test
During the beta test, Gould AMI had a total of 54 users, seven were in the actual design-center facility. The complete breakout, in trems of users, was:
* Five secretaries who were voice-only, key-system users;
* Two secretaries who were voice/data users;
* One vice-president, who was a voice/data user;
* Three managers, who were voice-only users;
* Forty-three engineering/support personnel, who were voice/data users.
Out of that group, the data users had a wide variety of input and output devices that were connected to the system, including Televideo, Tandberg, LSI, Megatek, DEC, ISC Graphics and HP terminals. They accessed applications on all of the minicomputer systems.
System Solved Cabling Problem
Dan Covington, an AMI data technician, describing his situation, reports, "I had a Televideo terminal at my desk. As a data processing manager, I needed access to all of the systems, including the minicomputers. Before we tested the new system, I used a manual A/B switch box."
"He had cables running to his desk from each of the minicomputers," says Smades. "When he moved his desk, I'd have four times the cabling problem of our other people. With the enhancement unit, the cabling issues were eliminated."
Covington also points out, "I used features on the enhanced system that I couldn't get before, such as the ablity to have multiple sessions on hold, speed matching, and data switching."
Covington, like many other users at AMI, supports the semiconductor design programs running in the different minicomputers." Some people use one system and some people use another. We want to support all vendor equipment," he states. His use of one of the systems is only occasional, so having to contend for a limited number of ports with other users is economical.
Don Singer, an engineer at the design center, previously had to walk to different terminals in different offices in order to access each computer. "The new system enabled me to use one terminal to access each minicomputer. Like Dan, I needed access to all the systems to support the design center," he says.
Productivity Was Increased
Commenting on the improvements she saw during the test, Smades observes, "The data-switching and port-contention capabilities of the enhancement product definitely contributed to an increase in productivity at Gould AMI."
She also mentions that use of a single unshielded twisted-pair wire for both voice and data communications helped improve on the division's wiring conditions, in addition to the added switching capability.
By using one integrated system for all communications, savings resulted from the need for less cabling and from having to keep records for only one system.
More Calls Were Answered
From a voice-only standpoint, Smades reports, "Use of thge David-Set features helped increase the productivity of users, especially the speakerphone and the single-button access to the Dimension voice features. Previously, calls weren't being answered because it was very difficult and unreliable for the Dimension users to execute a simple function like hold. With the new sets, voice users were answering more calls. This was a very good improvement, and it had a positive impact on the service that we were able to offer our customers."
During the beta test, AMI used eight Prime 750 ports, four Prime 850 ports, 14 VAX 11/780 ports and six HP 3000 ports. All the users on the system were contending for those ports.
Smades believes that a one-and-a-half-to-one port-contention ratio fit in very well with the division's user profiles. She points out that most of the AMI data users, when using such a contention ratio, were able to get a port whenever they needed it.
The beta test ended last April. Both Hart and Smades felt it had been very successful.
"The system did what it was supposed to do," they said.
Test Provided the Attachment Concept
AMI purchased the Information Manager in May and plans to expand on the application.
In addition, Hart notes that the test of the product proved the feasibility of attachment concept.
"We bought our Dimensions in June 1985 and will continue adding data-switching and enhanced-voice behind them," he reports.
"Voice users like the new sets because they are easy to operate, and we haven't had any major problems with the new system," Hart advises.
Enhancement Decides PBX Purchase
Hart also reports," At Gould, we decided to purchase all of our installed Dimensions, because they're meeting our needs for voice communications and are a tremendous value for us, since we can, for the most part, avoid disrupting existing users.
"And, with the ability to enhance the Dimension for voice/data/LAN, we feel even more secure in our decision," Hart states.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 1985|
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