Developments in the TCP/IP suite of communications protocols unveiled during the recent TCP/IP Interoperability Conference held in Arlington Virginia should lead to widely available multi-vendor networking facilities for users, following a joint co-operation effort by six computer networking and communications companies. At the conference, the widely used NetBIOS Network Basic Input-Output System session layer networking interface developed by IBM for MS-DOS micros, was shown running over the TCP/IP layers below in a multi-vendor demonstration that included products from Bridge Communications, CMC, Excelan, Network General Corp, Syntax, and Ungermann-Bass. The significance is that the companies have achieved consensus on standards for a common NetBIOS interface, the result of 18 months’ work, according to Dan Lynch, President of Advanced Computing Environments, the conference organisers. It took nine months to get the specifications together, and a further nine months to do the work. The six vendor companies showed the 900 conference attendees applications such as PC Lan and Smart running between MS-DOS, Unix, and Xenix micros and servers, and included the first products from each company to take advantage of the standard, including the PCS/1 PC server from Bridge and Excelan’s LAN WorkPlace for Xenix and MS-DOS operating systems, which enables direct communication between dissimilar hosts, servers and departmental computers on the local network without the need for gateways. Excelan’s Technical Marketing Manager, Steve Spanier, said that the co-operation would lead to a wider arena for networking access. TCP/IP is growing fast, as less technical people are starting to use networks and demanding transparent access to network resources. Spanier expects the new standard, which has been placed in the public domain, to be widely taken up by vendors offering TCP/IP based products – Excelan, for instance, has a strategic relationship with the Santa Cruz Operation for TCP/IP with SCO Xenix. Also addressed at the conference were the beginnings of an agreement on network management standards for TCP/IP. However, said Spanier, that probem is on a much grander scale – we’ve started later and the problem is bigger. It would be at least a year before any solid standardisation was seen, he said.