I P Sharp Associates, now owned by Reuters Holdings Plc, is aiming to turn its Ipsanet international network service into the general value added data services arena by increasing the number of access protocols it supports as well as its capacity. The company has hived its network specialists off into a separate subsidiary, called communications services group, to push network services in their own right. Until now they have been sold as complementary to I P Sharp’s application software products including online databases and specialised financial products, based around its proprietary Ipsa software and running on IBM mainframes. The company has, therefore, concentrated until now on the IBM market. But it intends to add support for DEC, Wang and Tandem systems as well as protocols such as 3270 and it is now delivering software under Unix on AT&T’s 3B1s and Sun workstations. Central to I P Sharp’s strategy for growth is UKP10m a programme called Net 90, in which it has been developing a new generation of network switching nodes based on the IBM AT. The aim is to extend the network’s capabilities and make it faster and cheaper per port by providing intelligence in nodes at local level. The existing Ipsanet is based on ancient Alpha minicomputers supplied by Computer Automation with communications interfaces provided by Macrodata. Macrodata is the ex-I P Sharp Dutch subsidiary, which set out to manufacture communications hardware for I P Sharp, Geisco and other companies. The aim of the Net 90 architecture is to draw intelligence from the mainframe to node level so that users can get, for example, screen-driven choice on which host they want to access. Each AT will support up to five communications co-processors, each with two communications ports, implementing the power of an AT into a standard 19 rack. Clusters of the microprocessors linked at the same site over a Token Ring are being phased into Ipsanet during 1987. The UKP10m programme is due to end in 1990. The company has started as it hopes to go on by securing a ‘multi-million pound’ order for 13 network concentrators from RCS-UAN, Rizzoli Carriere Della Serra – United Advanced Networks in Italy, for a general purpose packet switching network. The Italian company is developing value added services, including a media service for publisher Rizzoli and various financial services and it will connect users directly into Ipsanet.
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