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National Westminster Bancorp triples response time with reorganized network.

National Westminster Bancorp (NWB) recently improved their network response time threefold when they reorganized the network, linking their Northeast offices. Like most businesses, banks such as NWB are striving to stay competitive by serving their customers better. Much of this hinges on having a modern network that extends to remote locations and includes disaster recovery plans to ensure uninterrupted service.

Unlike other businesses, banks operate in an environment characterized by uncertainty, due in large part to constantly changing regulations.

These were among the formidable challenges confronting National Westminster Bancorp (NWB) when it decided to reorganize its interstate network in the Northeast, linking sites in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Incompatible islands

In recent years, NWB acquired several smaller banks which operated their own local area networks. After reorganizing these banks to conform to organizational practices and procedures, NWB was left with incompatible LANs that were difficult to integrate on a wide area internet, much less manage. Compounding this problem was a diversity of physical media--fiber optics, microwave, coax and twisted pair--each with unique management concerns.

The first LAN interconnection devices at NWB were IBM PS/2 bridges linking 3270/SNA Token Ring segments. But the PS/2s were ill-suited as a long-term internetworking solution for a variety of reasons. They involve a lot of labor cost because the customer must assemble and configure them. They have only two ports, severely limiting connectivity.

Many more such bridges are needed on large networks, inflating operating costs. Lastly, unlike conventional bridges, PS/2s have keyboards, posing potential security problems.

Although NWB was convinced a new internetworking design would bring greater efficiency and cost-savings, they were reluctant to act. Management was concerned about the network's growing complexity--an unavoidable result of continued acquisitions. Much of this complexity stemmed from the many networking protocols used to transport critical information for the bank.

Another consideration was the bank's investment in IBM mainframe software, which is not easy to abandon. Like many large companies, NWB had to reconcile its need to share applications between the traditional SNA-based mainframe backbone and the emerging world of LANs, which offer greater speed and efficiency.

To solve the problem, NWB selected CrossComm Corp.'s ILAN Universal Router--which' gave them an internetworking device that operated independently of protocols. It was significantly easier to use than conventional routers due to its modular plug-and-play architecture.

Unique universal router architecture uses a special routing engine--address processor and lookup directory--that learns all device addresses upon attachment to the LAN and automatically sets up the routes between LANs, irrespective of the communications protocols being used. Once plugged in, all ILAN needs is some fine tuning.

This ease of use takes the burden off of skilled network personnel.

One feature important to NWB was its compatibility with IBM's Source Routing protocol and its handling of SNA's Synchronous Data Link Control (SDLC) protocol. This allowed both types of traffic to be routed over a common enterprise network--exactly what NWB was trying to achieve.

Another key factor was its network management capabilities, especially those permitting the gathering of performance statistics from remote locations.

To test link continuity between an ILAN and a server of a token ring LAN, for example, an operator running CrossComm's Internetworking Management System (IMS) instructs an ILAN to send a stream of test packets to the server, which will be echoed back by the server if there is an active connection.

The units also support IBM's LAN Network Manager, which is an essential management tool in NWB's IBM networking environment. They contain firmware embedded in the management agents that are compatible with commands from LAN Manager. In addition, they can work With just about any network management system that NWB may decide to implement in the future, including the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), IBM's hostbased NetView and Novell's network management tools for NetWare.

Improved in operations

Going from the SNA channel-attached architecture to a LAN-based architecture (i .e., higher-speed, peer-to-peer, protocol-independent routers, etc. ) provided NWB increased productivity, especially in funds transfer and in processing letters of credit.

In turn, these productivity increases reduced the bank's overhead expenses. But more importantly, the transition enabled NWB to provide a variety of customer services quickly and efficiently-the critical yardstick of success in any network integration plan.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Banking/Finance
Author:Zito, Frank
Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:708
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