IBM Corp’s networking division took the opportunity to outline its network computing roadmap at its annual networking conference, held in Cannes, France earlier this week, effectively laying down the gauntlet to networking rivals Cisco. Instead of a flurry of product launches – the only announcement that emerged from the three-day event was the arrival of Visual Age for Java – IBM expounded its new-found network computing religion to the assembled masses. According to Lee Roberts, general manager for the networking hardware division’s sales and marketing, IBM has fundamentally realigned the entire company to support the network computing model. Java is to be firmly positioned as the development language of the future and ATM will be pushed as the core backbone technology. IBM also formerly stated its intention to establish itself as market leader in both hardware and software networking arena – a title Cisco may well dispute. With about 75% of the router market, Cisco could be forgiven for thinking it was in a position to claim that particular crown, but not so, said Roberts. While Cisco deserves credit for what it’s achieved, it is only involved in the router market, producing revenues of about $5bn in 1996. IBM is involved in the entire networking arena. We’re not simply the provider of plumbing, we have the total solution, which helped the division turn in over $12bn last year.
By Louise Williams
And as a further snub to the Cisco camp, IBM has decided that routing technology will not be sufficient to support the network- centric infrastructure of the future. However, the company was keen to point out all existing and future routing technology would continue to be supported. We will continue to support technologies such as routing and fiber optics, but it will be ATM that defines the look, feel and management techniques of the network in the next century, said Roberts. And now that the ATM decision has been made, IBM said it would stop at nothing to support the technology. Five steps that it said stood in the way of a true network-centric environment, were outlined. Firstly, bottlenecks and hops must be eliminated by replacing shared LANs and routers with an ATM backbone; Internet and intranet protocols must be firmly established; WAN consolidation was needed to reduce line charges and exploit PTT services; virtual LANs must be implemented to ease the constraints of physical LANs and networks and finally, the quality of service must be improved to provide every application with the required bandwidth ‘on the fly’. When these issues have been resolved, Roberts said the networking world would be able to leave behind the old infrastructure once and for all. IBM is not asleep at the switch, said Roberts. And he said the latest refocusing proved that IBM was managing to stay one step ahead of the game. We’re not a dinosaur and the network computing model will rejuvenate IBM’s worldwide networking division, said Roberts.