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November 5, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

The slower than expected support for Open Systems Interconnection has forced Dowty Group Plc’s Case Communications Ltd to reassess its local area network strategy. The company is abandoning its ‘OSI-only’ policy in favour of a one in which the International Standards Organisation protocols are supported along-side TCP/IP and Digital Equipment Corp’s LAT. The company launched it’s series 6000 local netwrok products just over two years ago and chose to base them exclusively on OSI protocols to catch what the company believed would be a rapidly emerging open systems market. As a stop-gap measure it introduced a series of gateways in order to link the various proprietary systems to its OSI back-bone. Although the gateways increased the cost of the overall network, the strategy was based on the belief that they would be come unnecessary once the major computer manufacturers improved their OSI support. But now, according Chris Anderton, marketing manager for local area networks, Dowty’s perception of the market has changed. The support from mainframe vendors hasn’t been as fast as you would like he said, blaming among others, both IBM Corp and DEC. People look at IBM’s Open Systems Interconnection communications subsystem, ask how much it costs and end up saying ‘thank you very much, but I’ll do it another way’ and similarly, although DECnet Phase V does support the open systems standards, he describes the services and functions provided by the OSI support as minimal. As part of its rethink, the company has launched a multi-protocol terminal server and a multi-protocol bridge-router. The gateways are not totally out on their ears, however, IBM mid-range and mainframe traffic continue to use them. The new boxes have full support for DEC LAT, OSI and TCP/IP protocols – the last using standard RIP protocols, although Anderson says that eventually it will support the Open Shortest Path First routing protocol too. The new multi-protocol devices are designed, too, to enable Dowty to compete in the network components market with the likes of 3Com Corp and Wellfleet Communications Corp. So does Anderson see Open Systems Interconnection itself as a failure? No he says, giving the politically correct answer: however he believes that the world is taking a far more pragmatic view of users’ networking requirements and in particular, that TCP/IP is going to be around much longer than people forecast. On the other hand he is also clear that currently most of the support for Open Systems Interconnection is coming from statutory government procurement requirements, rather than any particular enthusiasm on behalf of industry. As long as government continues to support it, OSI is not going to die, however he believes that if we didn’t have things like UK and US GOSIP then yes, I think that could happen. – Chris Rose

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