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July 7, 1988

NETWORKS ’88 REMAINS THE POOR RELATION OF THE COMMUNICATIONS SHOW

By CBR Staff Writer

The Networks ’88 show, held at Wembley late last month, proved itself to be still very much the poor relation of its better known and longer running UK sister exhibition, Communications, but was the venue nonetheless for a number of product and strategy announcements. Both British Telecom and Unisys made statements of committment to open system interconnection standards, backed up by new products in cabling and Unix respectively. Telecom’s offering, called Osca, for Open Systems Cabling Architecture, is an open architecture for cabling buildings, and the package for customers includes consultation, design and installation. Osca falls under the phone company’s umbrella Open Network Architecture strategy, which aims to provide customers with a portfolio of compatible Open Systems products. Osca 100, the first Open Network cabling offering, is designed to link micros, terminals, mainframes and minicomputers from IBM, DEC, ICL, Unisys and Wang environments at speeds up to 4.2Mbps, according to a set of rules developed by Telecom. Unisys’ Open Systems offering consists of four Unix product: FTAM file transfer, access and management for data exchange; message handling system for interconnection of X400 mail systems; plus Open Systems application services and transport services. GEC Plessey Telecommunications, keen to push its presence as a major new force in world telecommunications came up with new packet switching additions to its wide area networking range. These are the GN 4000, with capacity of 3,500 switched packets a second for high performance data networks, and the GN 3000 for smaller sites with a need for up to 500 packets a second. GN 2000 brings up the rear as a lower-end device for connecting terminals to X25 networks. Interfaces provided include IBM, ICL and viewdata support. Cheap, low-end networking Corvus Systems, which has since filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, announced price cuts to bring it in line with Amstrad’s offerings when Alan Sugar makes his autumn debut into cheap, low-end networking. Amstrad will be offering OEM boards from Corvus to network three MS-DOS micros plus a version of Corvus System’s PC/NOS network operating system, and Corvus has accordingly reduced its Omninet starter kit to UKP1,000 from UKP1,600, with the transporter cards which are used to extend Omninet capacity reduced by UKP250 to just UKP100. Alcatel Business Systems took the chance to exhibit its 8930 connectivity processor linking IBM mainframes with DEC minis. The processor transfers data at up to 150Kbps, in both directions, between IBM 370-type machines and DEC VAXs and MicroVAXs. A high speed parallel hardware interface is attached to a System 370 block multiplexor channel, and connectivity software on both the IBM and VAX systems links the two machines peer-to-peer. Alcatel expects a big market, based on the equation that 50% of IBM sites have DEC hardware as well. Banyan Systems Inc was making noises about expanding in Europe following its acquisition of sole UK distributor, Banyan Systems (UK). It has appointed MBS Communications Ltd as the first UK dealer for its Vines virtual networking operating system software.

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