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Management strategy for a mixed computer environment.

Managing a network in support of a heterogeneous computer environment can be a perplexing situation, particularly where the computer platforms observe different protocols and software solutions provide the interface.

Such scenes are common where mergers or acquisitions bring together incompatible computer arrangements. Typically, this might involve a mix of IBM System 36/38s, HP-3000s, Dec VAX 780s, and DG.

Consider the case of an international manufacturer of paper products. An aggressive acquisition program brought together several competing firms under one umbrella corporation.

Operating over a 22-node network, each manufacturing center operated a separate mini-computer system.

The company needed to consolidate the network and reduce inter-network delays which disrupted the flow of data between plants.

Managing this disparate data network presented resource problems from the start since there was no in-house networking expertise. As line problems occurred, there was no one to resolve the faults with the telcos. Failing lines often "died entirely" before trouble calls were placed with the local BOC.

Further confusion ensued because with multiple carriers involved, network faults were difficult to identify or resolve on some point-to-point segments.

Further, a capital expenditure freeze limited the MIS director's ability to get needed funds for physical management of the network.

Seeking a solution

The MIS director began first by inventorying the "newly" acquired network, line arrangements, and CPE at network nodes.

Line inventory was important since it revealed lines that o longer were in use.

In addition, lines that were thought to be disconnected but were still billed to the new corporate owner under the former corporate name also were resolved.

The audit revealed a mature DCE (data communications equipment) inventory, with a heavy concentration of heritage AT&T, Paradyne, and UDS modems and multiplexers. This detailed analysis of all the factors effecting the network revealed a detailed criteria for network control.

The audit provided the MIS director with enough information about the new network from which he could formulate a basic approach to managing this disparate network.

Reaching for a strategy

The study team faced a broad array of network management products from which to choose.

AT&T, MCI, and US Sprint network services offered systems which required subscription to their software defined network services, i.e., SDN, VNet, etc. While these carrier-supplied NMS services supported elements of network control, much of their services relied on customer involvement in the isolation and resolution of network faults.

Without in-house expertise the MIS director had to consider other approaches to a network management strategy.

Another solution was the outsourcing of some network management services. Such a solution meant there would be no requirement to buy new equipment, no immediate need for in-house trained personnel, and service could be implemented in a minimum amount of time and funded out of the existing telecomm expense budget.

Resolving problem

The MIS director considered a number of proposals, however, since a major portion of the DCE consisted of a mixture of equipment and Paradyne's NetCare Service provided a logical solution.

To inaugurate this service, this MIS director would only have to lease an AT&T Paradyne Compshere 6800 Network Management System. It would be possible to phase in the service on a partial basis to monitor the more troublesome network routes.

The firm could get immediate network support, allowing time for developing a long-term strategy. As the system moves toward an open network architecture (OSI), other options would develop to support the manufacturer's long-term strategy.

There were other advantages to this alternative. Since NetCare service costs are based on the type of device, level of service, and number of devices, service costs initially could be limited to 10 key circuits.

At $24 per device per month, the standard monitoring and control service could be put into service for under $600 per month.

Specialists would provide timely management and control of the network. Fault isolation could be monitored on a real-time basis, reporting the status for critical network routes.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Llana, Andy
Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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