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  1. Technology
August 16, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Filling in the details on the joint MacWorld announcement by Apple Computer Inc and Digital Equipment Corp last week (CI No 992), the pair have moved forward their efforts to marry DEC’s DECnet/OSI wide area network with Apple’s AppleTalk local net to create a seamlessly integrated environment for users in several respects. The two companies began talking to each other in November 1987 following feedback from mutual users of DEC VAX minis and Macintosh micros, who indicated that closer links between the two manufacturers’ equipment would be advantageous. The development teams will concentrate on file and print services, database access, network management and network terminal services – but no-one need hold his breath: end-user products and toolkits to enable developers to start creating new capabilities won’t start appearing until next summer. Worldwide in 1989 The joint development programme will also provide tools to add new capabilities to existing software and conversion utilities for migration to the new generation of products. AppleTalk for VMS is the basic development environment for integrating the two networks, and the pair promise to enhance it with wide-area routing via DECnet tunnelling – whatever that may mean – and enhancements to the AppleTalk-DECnet gateway. There will be a VAX-based Appletalk Filing Protocol-compliant file server, and print services will enable users in either environment to access the same PostScript-driven laser printer, regardless of whether it is on the AppleTalk or the DECnet network; Mac users will also have access to the print queuing and other facilities that are in VMS. The pair say that network management will be possible from AppleTalk as well as DECnet networks, which seems to imply that the Mac will be usable as a terminal to DEC’s network management system. The companies announced specifications for client and server implementations that provide support for database access via both SQL and Apple’s CL/1, a database querying mechanism which was originally developed by Network Innovations Inc. Mac users will be able to run a VT terminal emulator to access VMS based applications, and access to VMS via the X-Window System on the Mac will also be supported. And Apple will implement DEC’s Compound Document Architecture and DDIF Digital Document Interchange Format alternatives to IBM’s Document Interchange and Document Content Architectures so that text documents can be exchanged between the two environments. The vision is that a Mac user in say, San Diego, should be able to gain access to a DEC mini in Geneva, without having to worry about the mechanics of the network – and the pair hope that everything outlined above will be available by autumn 1989. The programme for DEC to add Macs and related products to the maintenance contracts it offers, where they are installed alongside or linked to VAXes, already initiated in some parts of the US, will go worldwide sometime in 1989. It is hoped that the linking of DECnet to Macintosh interfaces will be followed by arrangements for business communications services such as electronic mail, includ-ing compatible implementations of the X400 message handling protocol; Mac access to the VAXnotes electronic conference facility; and to viewdatabases built using DEC’s VTX corporate videotex system on VAXes.

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