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How Divestiture Is Changing Focus and Role of Today's Data Manager.

The AT&T divestiture has thrust the data communications manager into a highly visible role with new planning and management responsibilities. Because of new tariff structures, new ways of doing busness and a rapidly increasing volume of electronically transmitted information, telecommunications decisions can now materially affect an organization's costs.

But the problems brought on by divestiture also bring opportunity because they enable the data communications manager to make a significant contribution to company performance in terms of both the cost and efficiency of its operations. This means, however, stepping up to new problems, developing innovative solutions and playing a far more active role than in the past.

Consider the change in nature of the data communications manager's job. Pre-divestiture, this was essentially a provisioning function that simply reacted to the organization's needs. The manager determined users' requirements, placed orders and handled service complaints.

Today, the job is one of resource planning and cost management. No longer can a communications manager simply call on an AT&T account representative to fill end-to-end service requirements, from telephones to switched networks. Today, the manager must become familiar with the tariffs, services, equipment and procedures of numerous vendors in order to develop cost-cutting strategies that support his or her organization's changing communications information requirements.

In addition, the manager must become familiar with the potential benefits and disadvantages of new technologies, such as fiber optics and satellite communications. And the evaluation of offerings has to include the life expectancy of the suppliers. The volatility of today's industry makes it clear that some of the current players won't be around in a few years.

If that weren't enough challenge, PC-mainframe communications is introducing less-predictable traffic levels and increasing the frequency of changes in network access requirements.

Given this confusing environment, what are the key things that today's manager should do to help reduce costs, control the flow and efficiency of information, and produce the most positive effect on a company's data communications operations? Here's a three-part plan:

* Re-evaluate the topology of your network in relation to current and pending tariffs.

* Assess and understand your company's total communications requirements in light of today's broad range of services.

* Familiarize yourself with alternative means of meeting those requirements.

In the case of the first point, depending on the particular topology or configuration of a network, costs could increase substantially for a network that traverses several of the more than 160 local-access transport areas (LATAs) defined by the regional operating companies. Reconfiguring your network to serve the same points through differnt routing could reduce costs significantly.

By the same token, when it comes to adding new lines it may prove more costly to connect two parties in a straight line than to link them through other points in the existing network, or to use a combination of AT&T and other network carriers. Minimizing interLATA connections will also usually result in faster installation.

The second point--understanding your organization's total communications requirements--begins with evaluating your suppliers of both voice and data services to determing if you're using them as efficiently as you could be. For example, if New York headquarters has a direct leased line to San Francisco that is being used to only 15 percent of its capacity, rethink your options. Flexibility to try new alternatives and constant monitoring of service usage among the different vendors who serve you is a must in today's deregulated environment. Also Analyze Speed of Services

Getting a grasp on your organization's communication needs, also requirest analysis of the appropriate speed of services that are required. For example, if your company is using a direct leased line for routine internal correspondence between two major cities, that's an obvious waste of costly high-speed capabilities. On the other hand, costs might be fully justified with highvolume, end-of-the-month reporting requirements. Fact-finding of that nature can help impact your company's bottom line.

Also keep in mind that there are several options available involving the types of protocols used to communicate with host computers. Once again, it's a matter of evaluating your internal message-sending needs to determine whether low-speed protocol, such as those supporting teleprinters, are needed; or synchronous protocols supporting higher-speed data transfer are preferred. You have a sizeable range of options.

If your company's business spans internationally, you also want to be aware of new and changing regulatory rules involving transmission of data to foreign countries. In the case of Computer Sciences, for example, it's been in only the past year that our Infonet network was able to install a leased line from the US directly into Japan and Hong Kong, opening up new opportunities for data communication and electronic mail services that in the past were prohibited outside the country's bounds. Throughout the Far East and Europe, regulation requirements like these are changing; and new types of data communications services are being introduced as a result. Today's manager is wise to be alert to emerging laws that provide new opportunities in a changing international scene.

As for the third point, understand the options you have in connecting host computers and terminals over a wide geographic area to meet a given requirement.

Leased lines are the preferred solution for high-volume, stable applications that require host-to-host communications, or when terminals are on-line with a host throughout the day. Costs are fixed and therefore predictable. But costs can also be quite high if redundant lines are required to assure reliability. In effect, you pay for twice the number of lines actually needed to move your data.

Direct distance dialing or 800 service, on the other hand, are adequate for low-volume users. Both offer the advantages of low cost, short installation time, easy maintenance and simplicity of use. However, the quality of voice-grade lines is likely to hamper the accurate transmission of data and cause delays in processing time.

Dedicated lines or private networks solve the problem of transmission quality. And since the lines are yours Alone, users are spared the interruption of productivity-shattering busy signals. Dedicated lines or private networks are the preferred solution for high-volume, stable applications in instances requiring host-to-host communications or when terminals are on-line with a host throughout the day. Costs are fixed and therefore predictable, but can be quite high if redundant lines are required to assure reliability. In effect, the user would be paying for twice the number of lines needed. VANs Offer Economic Advantages

When requirements include varying levels of traffic, frequent changes in access or access to international points, public value-added networks (VAN) can provide substantial economic advantages over leased lines or a private network. The proliferation of personal computers is stepping up the demand for network access and changing the pattern of data traffic from the relatively stable load levels of the past to fluctuating levels today.

VAN charges are distance-independent, contrary to costs associated with dedicated lines, 800 service or direct distance dialing. VANs can provide immediate worldwide data communications, quickly meet new access requirements and accommodate varying traffic levels, all for the cost of actual network usage. In addition, they provide high transmission reliability and accuracy because of built-in redundancy and network management.

In some situations, a hybrid network of leased lines and a VAN will produce cost savings. Leased lines can be used to carry data between points with a heavy, stable traffic volume, and the VAN can be used to connect other points. This eliminates the need for backup lines, since the VAN can pick up all network traffic when a high-volume circuit fails. In addition, its use can minimize costs for network development and enhancement.

Divestiture alone is not the source of telecommunications problems today. The PC and other technological developments are contributing factors by virtue of their capabilities for facilitating the rapid transmittal of information. But the telecommunications manager can be a key figure in providing this information base for his or her organization and, in the process, make a positive impact on the organization's bottom line.
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Author:Gallagher, B.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1984
Words:1322
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