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  1. Technology
March 28, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Although better known as Britain’s last surviving stand-alone minicomputer manufacturer (Ferranti Computers is much bigger, but Ferranti International does not live or die according to the success or otherwise of its Argus minis) Hemel Hempstead-based ITL Information Technology Plc has embarked on a self-promotion exercise, designed to draw attention to its networking services, and, in particular, its Cablestream range of fault-tolerant networking products. The company, which claims to offer inception to infinity networking solutions and boasts the installation of some 20,000 nodes in 80 sites throughout the country, has not been slow to digest the implications of a recent Dataquest trends and influences report, which predicts enormous growth in the local area network market, a corresponding increase in demand for broadband, Ethernet and – in particular – Token Ring technologies, and a rising demand for stand-alone desk-top micros to be integrated, along with terminals and work stations, within a company’s network. More significant, however, is ITL’s claim that, through supporting existing communications standards and offering a full range of physical media support, the incompatibility and additional wiring-type problems which bedevil companies trying to expand existing networks, can be solved. Essentially, ITL’s Cablestream products are a series of bridges, gateways and other network interface equipment which, together with ITL’s wiring schemes, link separate work areas to create an open network environment. The wiring schemes often combine different physical media: fibre optics for covering large distances, coaxial cable-based broadband for the simultaneous transmission of mutually incompatible services, and twisted pair for single channel digital services. Multiple vendors ITL claims that this combination not only offers high performance with optimum cost-effectiveness but solves a range of network problems: how to support multiple vendors on the same network, how to handle IBM and DEC machines on the same wiring scheme, and how to integrate multiple vendors’ equipment on more than one physical medium. ITL also claims that equipment-based incompatibility problems can be solved through the implementation of its Cablestream product range: within broadband and Token Ring configurations, Cablestream 2000 products can connect terminals to several asynchronous hosts, with the 3000 series designed to offer a similar service within an IBM 3270 environment. Cablestream 5000 links TR-4, TR-10, TR-80 or Ethernet sub networks to remote sites, while the 6000 range on token ring or broadband increases the connection and geographical potential of MS-DOS micros. Intercommunication between hosts from different vendors is possible with the token ring 7000 series, and the Cablestream 8000 Ethermodem effectively replaces eight Ethernet transceivers to run Ethernet on broadband, and extends geographical coverage to three miles. For Baseband MS-DOS networking, the Ethernet adaptor card can be plugged into the back of any MS-DOS machine to provide host access: other products include a Network server, a multiple protocol driver, and a host interface system which interfaces DEC VAX/MicroVAX with TCP/IP protocols. Training and maintenance complete ITL’s turnkey solutions package for local area networks: future projects at the company will undoubtedly include a move towards a tangible Open Systems Interconnection solution.

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