New Data Switch the Hub of OCAM's Network.
A year later, OCAM is meeting its own extensive voice and data communications needs using a digital voice/data PBX as an integrator. Moreover, its goal of helping introduce leading-edge technologies is being achieved with contracts from a growing number of the province's estimated 15,000 manufacturers. Many other firms are taking advantage of the seminars and workshops that include hands-on demonstrations of the center's facilities. And in the process, the two sites have emerged as worldwide showcases of how government-funded demonstration projects can effectively achieve private-industry objectives.
Principal objectives of OCAM are to introduce and nurture across a broad spectrum on Ontorio manufacturers advanced production technologies that will spur exports of Canadian products and reduce competing imports.
"Our most satisfying situation," says one OCAM official, "is if an Ontario manufacturer that is being hurt by foreign product imports comes to us for help, we can show him how to adapt state-of-the-art techniques into his production so he can effectively compete in this or any other market."
The centre is a blend of government and private-sector involvement.
According to OCAM President Kenneth Jones, the concept is unique, and it has been so well received by Ontario industry that it is exceeding its original projection for service and revenues. For now, OCAM is going forward with a grand experiment that dates back to March of 1983.
"We had limited money to spend and needed to spent it for maximum benefits," recalls Wayne Bradley, who was a member of the systems procurement team and now is in charge of the data network for OCAM. "The selection process took six months, during which time we visited all the major North American vendors in their offices."
According to Bradley, "There were two criteria for selecting vendors: what the manufacturer could deliver to the client right now, which represented a large part of the evaluation, and the direction the vendor was taking for future product development. In other words, their commitment to the future. Whenever you buy something, it's hard to separate out what is deliverable and what is future product."
About 55 percent of the capital equipment allocation of $6 million (Canadian) was spent for the computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) facility at Cambridge, Ontario, about 40 miles from Toronto. The Cambridge Center is the site of the data communications center. The remaining 45 percent was spent on the Robotics Center in Peterborough. A good portion of the outlay was for a dozen robotics machines, and for advanced vision and sensing systems. PBX or LAN Approach?
Selection of mainframe computers, video terminals, primary minicomputer, plotters, printers and design workstations was relatively straightforward, according to Bradley. The more difficult task was to select the communications integrator. Would it be a PBX with data-switching capability or a LAN (local-area network)? After thorough analysis, the final decision came fairly easily.
"The digital PBX really solves the problem (of linking a variety of devices that must communicate together) that LANs are supposed to but are not really mature enough yet to do," says Bradley. "You can make LANs work today, but the cost is so high--about $2.000 per line, compared with $400 per line for a digital PBX."
The ITT System 3100 was chosen over competing switches, Bradley notes, "because it was closest to what we wanted and it was the right price. In size, it fitted nicely between two switches made by a leading vendor whose largest switch was too big and whose smallest switch was too small." Support Was Key Factor
But the deciding factor in selection of the System 3100 Data Switch was the "reception and the support" from ITT Telecom Business Communications Corporation's engineering and technical support facility in nearby Guelph. "We were delighted that the product that came to the top of the heap was a Canadian-Designed device," says Bradley. "The support from Guelph has been just superlative."
The System 3100 actually was sold and installed by the Canadian Telecommunications Group (CTG).
The confidence of OCAM in the capability of the 3100 switch and the support that was forthcoming from ITT engineers at Guelph is illustrated by the fact that the Cambridge installation doubles as a Beta test site for the 3100 data switch. All the other equipment procured was already on the market. A data/voice version of System 3100 will not be available to the US or Canadian markets until next year.
The 144-port switch at the CAD/CAM center in Cambridge was cut over in November of 1983, and the installation and debugging period passed with few hitches, according to Bradley. Three Separate Systems
The entire installation actually consists of three separate 3100s. The Cambridge system is configured for 45 voice ports and 45 data ports. The voice side is handled on eight local voice trunks, two foreign exchange lines and 45 System 3100 telephone sets, a dozen of which are hands-free units with call announcing.
The Robotics Center has 30 ports each of voice and data, and the Rexdale location currently uses about half of its 48-port system for voice, but also has data links to the Cambridge and Peterborough sites. All incoming calls are handled by receptionists at attendant consoles. Direct Inward Dialing (DID) and Direct Inward Systems Access (DISA) are among the more than 100 features available on the 3100 and eventually may be added to the OCAM system, Bradley says.
He calls procurement of the System 3100 "one of our more difficult decisions," because the system is "so important to how this place operates" from both a data and voice standpoint. "People are so defensive about their telephone system that it must work," he says. "We tend to take our voice needs for granted and the 3100 works exactly as expected." We use the entire spectrum of the ITT switch in voice, except call-detail recording."
He stresses that the System 3100 is "the complete hub of what we're doing here when it comes to terminal switching and data communications." He notes that more than half of OCAM's terminals corporate-wide go through the switch, and that probably the biggest single benefit of the switch to the center is that its minicomputers (including the big VAX 11/780) use one output device. In addition, there is peripherals sharing.
The fact that the center needed only one Calcomp miniplotter, which costs $25,000, rather than four or five such units, means that just this sharing feature alone paid for the System 3100, according to radley, "in not having to buy plotters for each of our switches."
Bradley, who has both voice and data experience in industry (his title is supervisor of software applications), says that there are two markets to which the System 3100is ideally suited, based on his knowledge of the switch. "One would be the market where a corporation has a wide variety of different computers and there is an integration problem of getting the computers to talk to each other. For example, with the wide variety of computers here, such as the VAX and the Prime 2250, I don't have the problem of a different terminal on my desk for each computer. The other market is if you have a company with a computer with 50 ports on it, but you have 80 users; that means 30 users are shut out. A digital switch can take terminals that have no action on them off and allow someone else to use those ports. There are going to be those people who get here at 7:30 in the morning and grab those ports and log their terminals onto the machine to make sure they have a port. The switch solves that problem by throwing their terminals and allowing someone else their port."
There are 35 terminals, but only 21 of them use the ITT 3100. The rest of them are patched directly to the VAX unit for Digital Equipment Corporation's electronic mail package. The System 3100 is used for internal message handling both at Cambridge and between the other OCAM sites. Looking to the Future
Asked about future plans for the System 3100, Bradley shrugs and says, "it's such a good performer, I suppose its role could be expanded. We could double the size of where it is now, from 144 ports to 288 ports, or we could simply add another shelf if we want to add more data ports. Buying a switch like this is like buying a computer. You think the computer is going to last you five years, but the applications for it jump out of the wall and pretty soon you find you're underpowered and need to expand."
He adds that the switch so far has "exceeded our expectations. After it was installed we found it had functionality that we didn't know existed. For instance, we didn't know that hot-line access existed and now we are using it."
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|Date:||Oct 1, 1984|
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