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ISDN-frame relay link is good for office and remote workforce.

Giving telecommuters access via ISDN to a frame relay connection to their office could be a boost for ISDN and for the work-at-home movement.

Telecommuting is a growing trend. It is driven by workers' and corporate needs and, in some cases, by laws designed to keep air cleaner and roads less congested.

But sticking workers in faraway sites where they are limited to 2.4 kb/s (lucky ones have 9.6 kb/s) modem connections to the office is not productive. Workers don't get the response they're used to on their LAN-linked office PCs, and work can degenerate into drudgery.

The University of California at Berkeley is one user keenly interested in the frame relay-ISDN possibilities.

Bruce Wootton of Northern Telecom says an ISDN-frame relay link can provide the familiar access to the corporate LAN that telecommuters need to do their jobs well.

"You bring in a number of remote users or sites and aggregate their traffic to the central site over a high-speed frame relay link," says Wootton. "This eliminates a lot of expensive hardware at the central site."

What the central site does not need in this ISDN setup is a modem pool and specialized terminal servers or gateways.

"The frame relay capability in the network provides a virtual pooling arrangement," Wootton explains. "You dial into a port on the frame relay service rather than a physical device on the customer premises. Within the network, all bandwidth is aggregated by the frame relay service and delivered to the customer premises over a T1 link."

The solution presented by NT involves a UDS Motorola terminal adapter and Private Router software from Kasten Chase Applied Research, Toronto. The cost of hardware at each user site would be less than $1,000, and the cost at the central site would be minimal, involving a router upgrade for the addition of frame relay.

Current ISDN users who have other terminal adapters could use them, but once these adapters make the connection, they must be able to talk in frame relay's language.

This setup operates through NT's DMS-100 central office switch. The user's local CO doesn't need a DMS-100, but there must be one somewhere in the link to make this work.

In those areas where ISDN is not available, this same approach could be handled with switched 56 services, though not as cost-effectively, says Wootton. Throughput from the PC to the terminal adapter is at 57.6 kb/s, and the adapter handles the conversion to the 56 kb/s circuit or bit-stuffs it to the 64 kb/s ISDN B channel rate.

"We have about 10,000 computers connected into our campus area network by low-speed modem access," says David Wasley, director of data communications and network services at UC/Berkeley.

"We would like to extend full functionality into people's homes, remote research labs and other places not contiguous to campus."

ISDN and frame relay offer the bandwidth for more sophisticated communication, says Wasley. The university would lease one or more "frame relay clouds" with points of presence at Pacific Bell central offices. Remote users would use ISDN to their nearest CO, get onto the frame relay network, then connect with gateways at the university campus.

The $1,000 per remote user cost isn't a problem, but the lack of ISDN ubiquity and the unknown price of frame relay could be, says Wasley.

"If the frame relay isn't priced right, it will not work, even if it is the right thing to do from a technical point of view," Wasley says. "It has to be affordable, and not usage sensitive."

Incidentally, the university is already using ISDN in a LAN-to-LAN connection to extend the campus network to four remote offices, and Wasley says "it works great."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:integrated services digital networks
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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