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Two users set sights on LAN troubleshooting.

Remmeber "The Trouble with Tribbles?" In that favorite original Star Trek episode, the crew was faced with the headache of managing the rapidly multiplying population of furry little creatures, Tribbles.

When problems arise due to network growing pains, many LAN (local area network) managers would probably love the option of beaming their LANs to a different planet, as Captain Kirk did with the Tribbles.

"Most networks start out with just a couple of workstations," says Paul Howard, LAN administrator at LensCrafers. "They grow quickly, and before you know it, the LAN has mushroomed into a huge system that has to be planned, managed and maintain."

The evolution of LANs--from a convenient way of sharing printers and peripherals to the modern corporation's lifeline--is occurring rapidly. In 1993, more than 170,000 corporate sites had large LANs installed. By 1997, nearly 90% of business PCs are expected to be networked. Many LANs grow hapharzardly, with nodes being swiftly added as needed. As a result, LAN problems are legion and can bring companies to a virtual standstill.

In today's brisk business environment, the most important attribute for a network manager is speed. Network managers at companies large and small find streamlined, handheld test equipment helps them isolate and diagnose network problems faster than more complex instruments.

Portable test tools can dramatically reduce the time spent identifying and locating problems, letting managers concentrate on solving them.

In the energetic world of entertainment, MTV Networks has a reputation as one of the fastest companies, both in terms of staying on top of trends and in terms of its internal functioning. Naturally, it's critical that its LAN managers solve network problems fast as well.

MTV Networks' offices are widely distributed--they occupy eight floors in one building and have studios throughout New York City, as well as regional offices and road crews. All require a constant information flow.

MTV Senior LAN administrator Hassan Howard was plagued by "strange, almost cosmic, intermittent network glitches." With 1,400 nodes on six rings interacting with 28 network servers, the network is highly complex. He was already using a workstation designed for ring diagnosis, but needed a new tool to diagnose problems on the physical layer in the wiring or nodes.

Howard and MTV selected the Fluke LANMeter for its ability to help them resolve problems fast through its pinpoint diagnostics and streamlined operation.

LensCrafters also has a reputation for speed. Its LAN is smaller than that of MTV Networks, but no less critical to the company's functioning. LensCrafters pioneered the concept of providing custom eyeglasses in just one hour. As the delivery vehicle for the business systems that support all the retail stores, the LensCrafters' LAN bears a similar responsibility for rapid turnaround.

The LAN carries all accounting, inventory, merchandising and marketing information used to support the retail stores.

LensCrafters' Howard and his team maintain 350 nodes on a seven-ring token ring network operating in a multiprotocol, multiserver environment.

"Our group is a service organization, and we're sought out only when there's a problem. So, for us, success means being as invisible as possible. We maintain invisibility by quickly turning problems into happy users," Howard says.

Although the company chose the LANMeter initially for its ability to troubleshoot connection problems, it has found it to be "a lifesaver in terms of overall fault isolation and detection," Howard adds.

Most network managers appreciate a portable tool that can actually be carried to network trouble spots to quickly pinpoint problems. Prior to the advent of targeted handheld test tools, most network managers had to wade through the masses of data generated by protocol analyzers in order to even isolate a problem.

Now, many network managers reserve the protocol analyzers for the very toughest problems, employing test tools as the solution of first resort. As a result, the LANs, the network managers and the companies they support can, as Spock would say, "Live long and prosper."
COPYRIGHT 1994 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Test Equipment; MTV Networks and LensCrafters
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:653
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