With plug-compatible manufacturers led by NCR Comten offering communications processors that substantially outperform the new name but old technology 3725, and with X25 becoming an almost universal requirement in large parts of the world, IBM has been in a race against time to enhance its own Systems Network Architecture offerings, and yesterday took some big steps in the right direction, notably with the new top-end 3745.
3745 can be a dual processor IBM claims that the new logic chips in the 3745 front-end communications controller are among the densest used by anybody. The 3745 processor is built of just three Application Specific Integrated Circuits, each integrating some 40,000 circuits, and implemented in one micron technology, mounted on Thermal Conduction Modules. The chips are being made at the company’s General Technology Division in Essex Junction, Vermont. The power of the 3745 is underlined by the fact that it is the first front-end to support channel-to-channel attachment to as many as 16 370-type mainframes, double the previous capacity. The need to take down the network to make changes has long been a bugbear for SNA users, and the 3745 alleviates the problem by allowing Line Interface Couplers to be plugged in without shutting the machine down. The company also claims that the 3745, working with NetView File Transfer Program, offers faster and more reliable exchanges of data transmissions. IBM also claims that a failure in virtually any component in the 3745 can be diagnosed and repaired without disrupting the operations of the system. It comes with the option of a second CPU for further availability IBM again claims this as a first over the competition: one can be shut down for maintenance or repair while the other continues running. The two processors each run their own copy of the Network Control Program and come with 4Mb or 8Mb memory each. A 45Mb disk drive is used to hold network configurations. The 3745 starts at $125,000 with one processor, Model 210, available in the US in March. The Model 410 with two CPUs will be available in September for $188,000. To get the full complement of 512 lines, 16 channel attachments, eight Token Rings and eight very high speed T-1 or European equivalent circuits, four 3746 Expansion Units are needed: these cost $17,000 apiece. The IBM 3745 controller was developed by IBM engineers from the company’s Communication Products Division in La Gaude, France, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Enhanced X25 support In keeping with an approach in which IBM never really believed, the company is vague about the enhancements to X25 support. It that versions 2 and 3 of the X25 extension enable its communications controllers to handle 40% more packets than the 1.4.3 version. There is also support for simpler and more flexible configuration of X25 networks, and the Fast Connect PRPQ that was previously available only in Europe, is now extended to the US. Version 2 of the software is needed for the 3725 and version 3 for the 3720 and 3745, and pricing is once again tiered according to the overall size of the network.
Tiered pricing on new ACF/NCP versions On the software front, there are several new releases of Advanced Communication Function/Network Control Program, ACF/NCP, which make it clear that additional memory on the 3720 takes the place of the 2720 that some people were looking for. Versions of the Network Control Program that run on the 3745 generally also run on the 3720 but not the 3725, implying that the former two should be seen as the current generation models. The company also introduced tiered pricing for software on the 3745 and 3720, which depends on the number of transmission subsystems or scanners, Token Ring Adaptors and channel adaptors on the network. Version 5.1 of ACF/NCP provides initial support for the 3745 under MVS and MVS/XA, and provides the function of ACF/NCP 4.2 but not the feature. Release 5.2 for VM and VM/XA and DOS/VSE as well as both MVSes enhances switched sub-area and multi-point sub-area support. It adds support for SNA Type 2.1 nodes,
and enhancements for reconfiguring the network on the fly and improving problem determination. Version 5.2.1 enhances Token Ring connectivity under MVS and MVS/XA and supports NCP-to NCP communications over a Token Ring, and NCP-to-VTAM through the 9370 Token Ring Subsystem Controller. Pricing on the new release 5.2 is in five tiers ranging from $14,400 and $300 a month to $72,000 and $15,000 a month – software pricing is veritably approaching hardware pricing. The 5.1 release is out now, the 5.2 in September 1988 with the VSE version following in December, and version 5.3 is also out in December. A new release of NCP 4 adds similar enhancements for the 3725 controller.