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New-Generation Intelligent Switches Are Resource-Sharing and Revenue-Generating.

Trade journals are packed with new switching vocabulary and communications methodology. Technological evolution is almost a revolution, carrying office automation from the electric typewriter to electronic typewriter to word processor to personal computer to computer-to-computer communications.

Yesteryear, the talk was of how to afford a computer. Today, computer costs are within the reach of all, but communication costs are spiraling upwards, giving birth to new technologies to speed messages, both voice and data; to address, store and receive messages remotely; to bypass present transmission systems; to communicate faster and more accurately; and to lower communication costs and increase communications efficiency.

Faced with the increasing costs of energy, communications and travel, and with the need to communicate nationwide and globally, to teach, to noninvasively diagnose medical problems, we're finding solutions in today's computer-based information-movement revolution. This is the age of information movement, of faster learning, of developing "one tongue" in which to communicate--technology.

We're now seeing the evolutionary growth of networking--between man and machine, between man and man, between machine and machine--to "tie it all together," to universally interface, to not only have communicative compatibility but also to save the systems already installed. Interfacing is an answer to the high cost of obsolescence.

Around the late '60s, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency gave birth to ARPANET--a stab at a resource-sharing network meant to provide state-of-the-art communications between a variety of different host computers, so that hardware, software and data resources could be shared, convenient and economical for a variety of users. In the mid-'70s, ARPANET came under the Defense Communications Agency; its interface message processors were minicomputer based.

Today's networks have evolved employing multibus technologies and methodologies, with expandable multi-processors that serve many hosts. They offer redundancy, high reliability, excellent response time and growth potential, thereby minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency. Message switching has been used to establish communication between nodes. In circuit switching, source and destination were connected by a dedicated communication path.

Network Control Centers Enter

The evolution today is to tie it all together into one switch, meaning that failure has to be detected, repaired quickly and monitored continuously--thus the entry of network control centers. So ARPANET has led the way to the design of today's message packet-switching networks, interfacing a mixture of different computers, terminals, communication nodes and distributors, over large geographical areas.

Engineering now advances quickly--new message protocols, switches, software technologies, routing algorithms, data-communication methodologies and transmissions. Computerized networks, such as Telenet, the government-sponsored Autodin and many others, have emerged, where remote terminals and entry locations are connected to a switched control computer, an information network.

Today's new generation of networks, both voice and data, can be used for "revenue-generating" as well as resource-sharing. New software-expandable "intelligent" (the new word for programmable) switches and systems are being introduced that work for the users, whereas before, it often was vice versa. These innovative switches and systems tie it all together--telex, teletext, data and packet-switched transmissions, the interfacing of diversified terminals and automated equipment, voice mail, and more.

Distributed Switches Come

A Bohemia, Long Island, New York, company called Intelligent Business Communications (IBC) is one of the vendors offering such a new tie-it-all-together switch that caters to user needs. Its CSX-1024 is a highly distributed universal switching system that's designed to make all text services compatible. Multiple systems in a network provide the user services, perform the network hub function, and handle all network control center activities.

The evolution of such switches came from both the need to save transmission dollars by speeding the sending of data (and soon voice) via packets, with superior accuracy, to anywhere on the globe (and beyond, as space technology demands), and the desire to have any terminal be able to communicate with any network, mainframe, PC, or whatever. Placing a new-generation switch within a network extends the life of an installed system or base of terminal equipment by permitting the introduction of new mainframes and terminals without obsoleting the existing equipment or changing the running software.

There's a large variety of terminal equipment in use today because each service or mainframe requires its own kind of terminal. Telex, TWX, IBM and DEC mainframes all use different terminal equipment, including teletext terminals, word processors, and so on. From these specialized terminal requirements emerged multiport terminal equipment. The multiport terminal has the ability to talk to a number of different networks and mainframes. Even these terminals are limited, but not to the same magnitude as is the single-purpose terminal.

Interconnectability Arrives

With the new-generation switch (such as the CSX-1024) mainframe additions, new terminals or new communication services are easily connected. The switch has the ability to talk to different protocols and languages in each of its parts, and to convert one protocol to another. This permits the old mainframe terminal to continue using the language it presently runs and to talk to the new terminal equipment. The switch is thus an "integrator," making it possible for the meeting of new and old without changing either.

The evolutionary progression has been from dedicated terminal equipment to multiport terminals, to intelligent switches that permit all terminal equipment to talk to any network or mainframe, to PCs as the universal terminal, to tie-it-all-together intelligent switches and networks. (See illustration on the following page for an example of such a switch's architecture.)

That evolution coincides with the revolution of deregulation, as a result of which, more and more carriers and methods to communicate from point-to-point are made available to telecommunications managers. Fortunately for them, the new-generation switch also is designed to provide the capacity to track the facilities and equipment used in their networks. It routes the traffic to the least-cost facility available. It interfaces different terminal types to all the communication facilities available. Thus, it produces cost savings, and reduces or eliminates the need to change existing equipment. Moreover, it expands or contracts to custom to fit the user's specific needs.

Least-Cost Routing Debuts

A new-generation switch such as the CSX permits use of almost all transmission facilities and carriers available. Using its routing functions and billing, multibus and multi-protocol methodology features, the user can schedule the usage of facilities using lowest-cost first, with volume sensitivity for peak usage. This reduces overall network facilities and cost, while universal interfacing and adaptability to new technology offer the ultimate in flexibility.

Before the advent of intelligent switches, data communications was limited to the carrier and the dedicated facilities the user had acquired. Now, the user can interconnect previously incompatible terminals and facilities and have the freedom to add new facilities without concern for incompatibilities, since the switch solves this problem and permits access to new facilities from the existing terminal base.

The new-generation switch is well-suited, as noted earlier, not only as a shared-resource switch, especially in a shared-services tenant environment. It will interface to a large variety of terminal equipment, allowing tenants freedom of choice and removing the burden from the landlord of coordinating purchases of communications gear.

Usage-Sensitive Billing Here

In addition, a billing package permits billing the tenants for those usage-sensitive facilities that each uses. The landlord can thus offer each tenant a desired grade-of-service without forcing all to bear the cost. The switch also permits the landlord to "massage" the network for fault identification, fault isolation and resolution, and verification of service restoral.

Creation of the state-of-the-art digital switch for communications combined computer and telecommunications technology to meet the ever-expanding demand for access to and exchange of information and to offer a cost-effective means of facilitating communications between noncompatible systems. Full interworking between all forms of digital record communication, such as telex, TWX, asynchronous data, synchronous data and packet networks, is all part of the intelligent switch's capability to save costs, provide shared resources and produce revenue for the switch user.

One cost-saving example: Users transmitting data over leased lines are paying dearly for dedicated circuits on a 24-hour-per-day basis even though actual use amounts to only two or three hours daily. However, with packet switching, telephone lines can handle data from possibly several hundred companies at the same time, keeping these lines fully occupied, while allowing users to pay only for the time actually used.

Although this application was spurred on by interantional usage, the domestic market is rapidly expanding, as evidenced by trade journal reports. Digital communications has opened a new wave of opportunities; integrated-service digital networks are here.

Information Movement Advances

In today's era of information movement, more and more data is being processed and communicated from the originator to its destination at incredible speeds and accuracy, permitting small and large user alike, industry as well as consumers, to tap into the wealth of information from others (with their permission, of course) and to offer their input into the system.

i predict that cellular radio, telecommunications and computer technologies will someday be melded to provide mankind with global communications unity. For example, in medical diagnostics, more and more global use of computer-aided noninvasive diagnostic techniques will be available via the new-generation switches to any location on the globe.

The new technology-driven information movement is here. To keep up, we have to increase our training in the engineering and technical arts and sciences. I believe this rapid, seemingly confusing growth of technology will benefit mankind in creative problem solving--using the ingenuity of man and the analytical ability of the machine. The result will be intensive networking between man and machine to materialize what we conceive and to communicate it to all--a global cooperative effort in all fields of endeavor.

One-Tounge Communication Soon

A coming byproduct of today's rapid technology is global and universal communications, what I call the advent of a "one-tounge" communication revolution, whereby we can all communicate with each other, with a set pattern and standard understood and agreed to by all. Already, one can notice how the globe gets smaller as communications increase.

For the present, however, we need to concentrate on vendor-user communication. Technological products must be tailored to be truly responsive to user needs, to user wants. Users complain that manufacturers give lip service to their needs, and manufacturers feel that users are vague in their definitions of both near-term and long-range communications requirements. Progressive manufacturers are now aware that they must develop products within the users' application capabilities, so both sides can satisfy the users' true requirements. Users must become better strategic-business planners (and many are) in order to put the control back into their hands and to identify their true needs.

Telecom Problems Faced Today

Meanwhile, telecommunications managers are constantly confronted by upper management to cut spiraling communication costs and, at the same time, to move more and more information. This causes parallel systems to become installed throughout a company and leads to duplucation and confusion, with new industry offerings creating rapid obsolescence of what was recently purchased.

To address these problems, I suggest a three-step approach:

* Install a consolidated network planning and control center, with the user in control at the helm, working in close cooperation with the manufacturer.

* Plan one's needs as one plans a business, with a profit-and-loss statement and a realistic three-to-five year strategic business plan.

* Utilize Networking concepts to attain the twin objectives of cutting costs and adding revenues--for your company's benefit and your own.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Mark, B.
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:evaluation
Date:May 1, 1985
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