Networld+Interop: Internet wares galore
HP and IBM girding to battle Sun for hearts and minds of intranet server buyers
Las Vegas -- There was considerable excitement over the Internet and how companies can use it to enhance their business processes among the more than 40,000 people who showed up at Networld+Interop earlier this month. Sun computers were prominently displayed as a platform for providing many of the networking services required for business, ranging from servers to firewalls to network analysis and design.
One of the most evident on-going battles is the attempt by major enterprise software vendors to become the de facto enterprise networking software for businesses. SunSoft announced a whole suite of intranet integration products for businesses.
Solstice WebScout/NW is a package for companies with existing NetWare servers that allows them to support a complete suite of Internet applications that can be used within the company, or over the global Internet. One piece runs on a Solaris server and translates Internet IP packets into the IPX packets used over the NetWare network without having to reconfigure any of the NetWare servers. The client piece is a suite that includes Netscape Navigator, Pronto e-mail, and a number of other Internet applications. WebScout is now shipping for SPARC and x86 platforms with a list price of $849. The client software is only $60 per seat in quantities greater than 500.
WebScout is an effort to capture market share from NetWare users before others do. Microsoft, for example, released Microsoft Exchange at the conference -- it's an integrated suite of applications that includes e-mail, workflow, and workgroup scheduling. Exchange is positioned to steal market share from Novell Networks, and coupled with the Internet Explorer, can allow people to surf the Internet as well.
To compete with the Exchange Mail server, SunSoft has released the Solstice Internet Mail server. It is compatible with IMAP 4. Sun is providing a reference implementation of the e-mail client for free. But the server is compatible with any existing Internet mail client. Sun is even planning on supporting integration between the Solstice Internet Mail server and MAPI used by Microsoft and Profs, which is used on IBM mainframes.
Terry Keeley vice president and general manager of Enterprise Network Products for SunSoft said, "We are shocked at the Microsoft model. The economics of their solution does not play out well. For $995 we provide the server, you can put that on our smallest SPARCstation up to our 200 and you could support 1,000 or more users. With Microsoft Exchange the economics break away from that at about 20 users."
Sun also released Solstice PC-Cache FS for Microsoft Windows. This is a caching program that allows a local PC to cache data from a local or wide area network. When used over a local network, it is ideal for optimizing the distribution of frequently played audio or video clips across networks. For instance, a system administrator could automatically cache the latest message from the company president to each machine at night when the network is relatively idle. The next day, when people want to listen to the message, they can play it locally, which gives a better picture, as well as reduces network loading. Early tests have shown that PC-Cache FS can improve the performance of clients 17 times over NetWare clients without it.
PC-Cache FS automatically manages the cache for each user. Old data is deleted as new data comes to the PC. This simplifies the job of network backup for the administrator because they do not have to manage the data on each PC. They just have to deal with the central data source, which is automatically cached to each PC as it is required. PC-Cache FS ships in May for the PC at a cost of $170 for a single license and as low as $58 in quantities of 500 or more.
Sun is also going after the server market in the PC desktop networking arena. It has already announced Solstice LM server, which runs on SPARC and x86 platforms and provides file and print sharing services for existing Novell networks. Solstice NW is a file and print server for Windows NT networks, which supports SPARC and x86 platforms. Both servers are currently shipping. The Solstice LM has a retail price of $545 and Solstice NW is $645.
In addition, Sun has raised the bar on Internet servers with a new strategy for its Netra line of Web Servers. It has made standard many features that are only options with other servers. Fire Wall-First, a firewall from CheckPoint Software Technologies is built in along with Web-management software including Netscape Live Wire Site Manager, Netscape Enterprise Server, and Netscape Navigator Gold Authoring software. Also included is a bundled IP gateway, an improved e-mail and domain name server with multihost and domain support, and one button backup and restore.
The Netra server is now available. Prices range from $7,496 to $24,395. The base machine achieved a performance of 86 HTTP connections per second on the Webstone benchmark.
At the heart of the new server is an HTML management system. Neil Knox, vice president and general manager of Sun Microsystems' Internet and Networking division said, "The strength of Netra is making it easy to use and extensible for the corporate IS environment. For example, it now comes with a built-in firewall so the IS manager can take it out of the box, configure it without a lot of work, and plug it into the intranet."
The server itself has hooks for other kinds of services, so that it can be tailored for applications such as video on demand or database access. Knox explained, "MIS would spend lots of time coding their own applications. We are saying there are certain servers on the network that will be made more application-like. You should not waste your time on these different commodities. Why not let the vendor create the interface and then you incorporate that into your system. You don't go today and brew your coffee from scratch. You go to a coffee machine, and that is what is happening on the network."
Sun has also created a bundling program for volume orders. Knox explained, "Our customers have asked us to help them speed the deployment of Netra servers on their intranet. By building-to-order Netra Internet Servers with customer-specific features, we are making it possible for our customers to lower their cost of ownership and speed deployment of Netra Internet servers."
To help secure communications over a wide area, Sun has released SunScreen SPF-100G. This software encrypts all data which is sent between nodes on the Internet creating a secure virtual private network. It goes a step beyond similar products in that it even encrypts the IP addresses from each location, so hackers cannot even tell what is on your network. SunScreen had been available within the U.S. exclusively. The encryption algorithms on the latest version can now be watered down so that it can be approved for export from the U.S. to other countries.
Java is here
In order to bring Java into mainstream business applications, Sun further elaborated on Joe, the Java Object Environment, at Interop. Joe enables companies to replace HTML and CGI scripts with more efficient Java code. Joe connects Java applets on any Java browser to business applications running on networks. Beta versions of the software are now available to selected developers and will be generally available from Sun in June.
Steve MacKay, vice president of the Solaris products group at SunSoft said, "Joe is the missing link. Together with Java and Solaris NEO, Joe offers corporations an unparalleled architecture for developing, deploying, and managing mission-critical applications across all areas of their private and public networks. Joe gives corporate developers the added advantage of allowing them to leverage their existing data sources and legacy applications for intranet to Internet deployment."
Joe is compatible with the Object Management Group's Common Object Request Broker Architecture. This will allow Joe to communicate with any other CORBA-compliant object request brokers. http://www.sun.com/sunsoft/neo has more information about Joe, and http://splash.javasoft.com/pages/intro.html has additional information about using Joe for Java connections.
Sun is looking at incorporating Java into just about every application imaginable. During the show, it provided a behind-the-scenes look at a next generation network management application that uses Java. The prototype provides some of the same functionality as SunNet manager, and is portable to any platform that supports Java.
Java is even finding uses for the mainframe. OpenConnect Systems announced the release of OC://Connect, which allows Java browsers to view data that can be accessed via 3270, 5250, NVT, and VT220 type terminal emulation. The WebConnect software translates from the legacy system to Java, and updates any changes made on the Java browser to the legacy system.
The WebConnect software is available now at $319 per session for up to 16 simultaneous sessions. The price goes down to $50 per session for 1,000 simultaneous sessions.
George Macintyre, vice president of marketing and business at OpenConnect said, "OpenConnect chose Java as a key component of this new offering because it provides a solution set to a wide range of interoperability issues. Unlike some Web software that provides only host access, the OpenConnect Java approach means that users have a true bi-directional connection to their host systems."
Ensuring Web access
Maintaining the reliability of high-volume servers can be difficult for the network manager. One way of dealing with volume is to get a bigger server, but this approach is limited to the scalability of a single server. A second approach is to deploy a number of servers with the same content in a sort of round robin, managed by a DNS server. Each new Web request is passed to the next server in the queue.
Another approach is to do load balancing of the servers. For example, a SPARC machine might be fed 5 hits, for every hit going to a Pentium server. The problem with both of these approaches is that if one of the Web servers is down, the DNS server does not automatically know, and will continue to send Web traffic to it. Another problem is that many DNS servers on the client side cache the DNS address of a Web server for several hours. If a Web server with a particular IP address goes down, the client is sent to a non-functional Web site.
To address the need for high availability of Web servers, SOS Corporation released HydraWEB server at Interop. HydraWEB allows a Web master to use a single IP address for multiple physical Web servers. New requests for Web pages are automatically sent to the most available Web server. HydraWEB automatically monitors the status of each server, and routes traffic to it based on the servers availability.
This approach also simplifies network management. It allows an administrator to take down or add a server without impacting Web traffic to the other servers. If a server goes down on its own, HydraWEB can automatically send an alert via e-mail or page of the problem.
HydraWEB is a black box that sits between the firewall and an HTTP server and acts as a single IP address. Its clients support SunOS 4.1x, Solaris 2x, Irix 5.3, and HP-UX. Windows NT support is expected by the third quarter of this year. A two to four server license is $4,995; a five to 10 machine license is $9,595; and, an 11 to 20 machine license is $13,995.
Providing choice to parents and businesses
One of the greatest problems with the Internet is controlling people's access to certain content. Bosses want to make sure that employees don't spend work time recreationally surfing the Net. Parents want to keep kids away from sites best left unseen. There have been a number of programs targeted at filtering out all of the content that goes to the PC, but these must be individually administered on each PC.
Livingston Enterprises unveiled ChoiceNet at Interop for centrally managing the content that can be viewed by surfers. It allows the Internet service provider or company to create site lists that are permitted to be viewed by different classes of people. A list can be created for everyone on the network, or customized for each user. ChoiceNet will come bundled with all Livingston routers and communications servers beginning in May.
Taking network design to the next level
Network design can be a toilsome process. First you have to figure out where your network will run. Then you have to find the best components for the job. And finally, you have to evaluate network service providers to find out which one will give you the best deal without sacrificing reliability.
GRC International released NetworkVUE, which helps to automatically design your network, find the best components, and identify the best service providers. A built-in database has the rates for all network services providers around the world. It includes an application called Optimizer that uses rules-based logic to provide a quantitative network-configuration assessment and can determine simulated network performance and pricing.
NetworkVUE is now shipping for the Sun platform. It costs $70,000 to $125,000 depending on the options and the amount of consulting services required.
DHCP makes a showing
After years of being debated on the floor of the IETF, the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol has finally begun making its way into commercial products. DHCP greatly simplifies the management of IP addresses in large companies. It can automatically assign IP addresses in a network and change them if someone moves. It also guarantees that any changes to IP addresses are recorded in a central server. For example, Boeing claims that it has saved 60,000 hours a year of administration time by using DHCP to manage 40,000 clients.
Competitive Automation was demonstrating its JOIN implementation of DHCP in conjunction with management products from Quadritek and ISOTRO. Laird McCulloch, president of Competitive Automation said that they licensed DHCP to Sun for use on Sun clients. The JOIN DHCP server is now available at a cost of $1,500 for a server that can manage 1,500 IP addresses.
Tivoli unveils management systems plan
Just a month after finalizing its merger with IBM, Tivoli Systems unveiled the details of its plans to integrate its systems management offerings with IBM's network and systems management product line and to deliver a new product suite called TME 10.
"This is not just a road map," said Tivoli president and CEO Frank Moss. "We'll be in the marketplace by the end of the month. Better than 80 percent of the products comprising TME 10 are in the market today."
TME 10 will be based on Tivoli's object-oriented framework and will include its cross-platform products that have emphasized the Unix and Windows NT environments, Moss said. IBM brings host management and network management capabilities, as well as coverage of mainframe, LAN and desktop platforms, he added.
The integrated product line will consist of 24 management applications, covering 29 managed platforms, and include four integration tool kits, according to Scott Harmon, Tivoli's vice president of marketing. Management servers will run on MVS, OS/400, Unix, Windows NT, and OS/2. Management consoles will run on Unix, Windows, and OS/2. Systems that can be managed under TME 10 include all of the above, as well as multiple versions of Unix, as well as NetWare.
TME 10 will be delivered in three phases, Harmon said. This month and next, Tivoli will concentrate on repackaging existing products, eliminating redundancies, and reconciling price differences. In the third and fourth quarters of this year, all functions will be integrated and migration services put in place. Finally, from the fourth quarter of this year through the second quarter of 1997, Tivoli will complete the migration of all framework services, and simplify installation and maintenance of the package.
SystemView products that are IBM-specific will not be included in the Tivoli offering but will continue to be sold through IBM channels, and will work with TME 10, Harmon said.
Tivoli plans to work through IBM's country organizations to expand its presence internationally, and will build on its operation in Tokyo to strengthen product support throughout Asia, Moss said. The company will also expand its operation in Geneva, he added.
Both analysts and existing customers reacted favorably to the Tivoli plan. "I'm frankly thrilled that the Tivoli environment is being used as the basis for [the new offering]," said Timothy Hinds, program manager for distributed systems at the US Environmental Protection Agency's Enterprise Technology Services division. "It's a very good, extensible platform, both for distributed systems and for mainframes. To have gone from the mainframe-based systems out to distributed systems would have been very difficult -- which is why IBM bought Tivoli." The EPA uses both Tivoli's and IBM's system management tools, and Hinds characterized the companies' product migration plan as solid.
"I'm really impressed -- their only challenge is delivery," said Waverly Deutsch, senior analyst in the computing strategy service at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, MA.
While Computer Associates International Inc. remains the leader in the systems management market, according to Deutsch, the No. 1 and No. 2 positions could switch in the next year or two, and IBM/Tivoli could overtake CA. "Tivoli and IBM have deep pockets, loyal customer bases and global presence," she said.
Deutsch's biggest concern for Tivoli is that Moss stay at the helm of the company for at least another nine months, as the company does not have much management depth, she said. Moss has said he will remain, but Deutsch noted that Jim Manzi said he would stay with Lotus Development Corp. after IBM acquired that company, yet he left less than six months after the merger.
--Elizabeth Heichler, IDG News Service, Boston Bureau
US West digital test challenges ISDN
US West's !nterprise division is launching a test of digital subscriber line technologies designed to provide home-office users with Internet access at speeds of 768 kilobits per second to 1.544 megabits bits per second over ordinary phone lines.
The ADSL/HDSL (Asymmetric- and High-bit-rate-Digital Subscriber Line) technologies were characterized by !nterprise president Jerry Parrick as "filling the gap above ISDN," and he said he did not see these services eclipsing ISDN. However, he acknowledged that ADSL/HDSL will be easier for carriers to deploy, at a lower cost, than ISDN services, and that one can assume that carriers will be able to roll them out faster. The services will also give US West an offering to parry the competition of high-speed Internet access over cable modems, Parrick said.
"It's clear that a successful full-scale technical and market trial will put significant pressure on ISDN pricing across the country," Parrick said.
The technical trial is being conducted in the U.S. cities of Boulder and Denver, CO, and Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Using new digital subscriber loop technologies, the ADSL/HDSL services will be offered over existing copper telephone lines.
The symmetric, HDSL services will offer bi-directional speeds in the 768K-bit range, and are targeted at home-office users logging into corporate computing resources. The asymmetric service (ADSL) will offer 1.544M-bits per second downstream, and 640K-bits per second upstream, and so will be aimed at Internet users who are likely to need high bandwidth primarily to download large files from Web sites, Parrick said.
US West has not set pricing for the services, and is unlikely to do so before completing a market trial. But, the carrier expects to charge $60 to $100 per month early on, with long-term pricing expected to settle in the range of $35 per month, they said.
Cabletron offers virtual Net apps
Cabletron Systems Inc. announced new products that will enable administrators to control user access to resources on corporate intranets and the Internet by creating so-called virtual networks.
SecureFast VNET Manager offers network management capabilities such as security, resource allocation, call accounting, and monitoring. It works with the SecureFast Switch Client software, the SecureFast Management Suite, and the SecureFast Virtual Network Server (SFVNS).
SFVNS maintains a database of user access rights and can simultaneously process requests as it determines when and how much bandwidth users can have access to.
VNET Manager is priced at $15,000, and SFVNS costs $45,000. Both are available now.
Meanwhile, SecureFast VLAN Manager enables administrators to define, manage, and configure virtual LANs. An auto-register function called Wizard allows them to automatically create VLAN groups according to the types of protocols being run on the network to increase network performance and simplify administration. The feature also saves configuration set-up time and does not require users to type in user addresses, according to Cabletron. VLAN Manager will be available in 90 days for about $6,000.
--Elinor Mills, IDG News Service, San Mateo Bureau
In other Interop news...
--Elizabeth Heichler and Elinor Mills
No PC for Debbie Reynolds
No PC for Debbie Reynolds
As vendors showed off their wares at Networld+Interop, some of those networking products were allowing "the show to go on" a block away at the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino.
Reynolds herself doesn't use a computer, but her hotel's attractions depend on them. An Ethernet network links sophisticated computerized audio and video equipment in the hotel's stage, movie theater, and museum, while a point-of-sale system runs the reservation operations up front.
"Of course, I am definitely a woman of the '50s and '60s. That means I'm not very computerized," the 64-year-old star said during a brief interview before a performance. "I took typing in school, so I can type very well. It's the mouse" that's a challenge, she said.
The mouse is not the only impediment for Reynolds, according to her son Todd Fisher. "No way would she use e-mail," Fisher said of his self-proclaimed traditional mom.
But his sister, Carrie Fisher, writes her novels on a Toshiba laptop, and he manages the computer network behind the scenes at the hotel. A former electronics student, Todd Fisher said he bought his first computer, the 82nd Apple II manufactured, from Steve Jobs in the early '80s.
Today, he and his sister communicate via e-mail with friends, including sons of actors Jose Ferrer and Buddy Ebsen. "Hollywood kids are on the 'Net, but not their parents," he said.
Reynolds may be missing out on the global love affair with the Internet, but she can't ignore the technology just outside her dressing room.
The video show in the hotel's movie museum is completely computerized with a Power Macintosh orchestrating the operation of the lighting and laser discs, using packaged software from Swedish company Dataton AB.
A Power Mac also runs the Turbo IMix nonlinear digital video editing system. A Mac 8500 handles sound effects editing, and a Logic I board from AMS-Siemens handles nonlinear audio editing.
Stage lighting in the theater where Reynolds performs her musical shows is both computerized and manually done. On stage is a Mac 610 that coordinates with a Performa behind the scenes running a program called Timbuk II for handling sound cues and other audio functions.
"It's as if there's an orchestra," Todd Fisher said. Except that the virtual orchestra costs $25,000, compared to a real orchestra that would run about $8,000 a week, he noted.
The spotlights are all manually controlled because computers aren't able to follow performers' movements precisely enough, but that could change soon. "We've been talking to [dress designer] Bob Mackie about putting [optical laser tracking devices] in the dresses," he said.
The box office is fully automated using an AST Research Inc. server among other equipment, and a Power Mac 6100 drives an interactive kiosk display that allows fans to get information about their favorite celebrities.
Across the memorabilia-filled lobby, the reservation clerks use dumb terminals and a new NEC Corp. phone system for booking the hotel's 200 rooms. The accounting department uses a Prosignia 500 server; the controllers use a Pentium Prosario; and, the hotel network is tied directly into a bank, Federal Express, and the stock market.
In the offices, Apple Quadras and PowerPCs sit atop Fisher's and other employees' desks. The Mac makes it easy to handle network-related tasks, he said. "You just drag and drop a file from one desktop to another."
One function the hotel will never computerize, however, is that of the maitre d'hotel.
"No computer can ever replace Giovanni," Fisher said, slapping the smiling, uniformed man on the back. "He speaks 12 languages."
A smile is worth a thousand press kits
A smile is worth a thousand press kits
When a trade show rolls into town here, it's not just a chance for buyers, sellers, and schmoozers to do what they do best. Shows like Networld+Interop mean a gig for a lot of folks whose talents for juggling, jazz, or just smiling make them a crucial part of the spectacle.
The computer expertise required of this hired talent covers quite a spectrum. On one side, at the NEC booth, is a warm and unaffected model named Sheree, who isn't required to do more than smile and introduce passersby to sales reps. On the other side, at a Microsoft press conference, is the industry analyst who plays a part in the show.
Somewhere in between is Kathy Espe. A model who works one or two trade shows per month, Espy was flown here from Atlanta by Texas Instruments because she has worked for TI before and has some knowledge of the company's products.
Contradicting the image of the flighty glamour girl, Espe points out that some companies send her a package describing their whole product line for study prior to a show, so she can answer some questions if a sales rep is not immediately available.
The job has its pitfalls -- "I get all kinds of offers," Espe said, rolling her eyes -- but she enjoys the kind of work required by high-tech trade shows. At a medical convention, by contrast, she endured having her leg placed in a cast... over and over, all day long.
Minneapolis native Jim Harris stood beside the Digi International booth wearing a fur-lined parka, ear muffs, and snow boots, beckoning show attendees into Digi's presentation area. He misses his family on these week-long stints, he said, but the good rate of pay allows him to spend time pursuing his real love, acting in theater.
Abby Apple, of Las Vegas, turned her charm on a reluctant attendee to convince him to sit through the Frontier Technologies presentation. "It's only five minutes," she assured him, and he relented.
At the Digital Equipment booth, a man dressed in a business suit and tie jumped rope on a high wire.
One hostess for a small systems integrator, Dianna Holton of Las Vegas, was forthright about her job description. "I smile all the time, and that's an attraction," said the leggy peroxide blonde. "I hook 'em, and they catch 'em," she said pointing toward the vendor's marketing manager. A 12-year veteran of trade shows, Holton said she prefers Networld+Interop to Fall Comdex, also in Las Vegas. "I do like this clientele better than Comdex. They seem to have more energy or more personality [here]," she said. "At Comdex they take things so seriously."
At the IBM booth, the internationally known comedy-magic duo of Penn and Teller waited for their turn on IBM's stage, Penn obligingly signing the backs of fans' business cards, while Teller put a demo machine through its paces. IBM gave each performer a ThinkPad with a "butterfly" keyboard, according to New York-based writer-producer of skits John Doswell. "They basically do their act, and throw in a few lines about IBM," he explained.
With IBM highlighting its recent acquisition of systems management software vendor Tivoli Systems, big, lewd Penn stood in for Big Blue, while the mute, diminutive Teller played the part of Tivoli. No doubt IBM was trying to counter the expectation that Tivoli would lose its independence in the Armonkian camp.
Even away from the show floor, industry outsiders showed an inclination to be demo jocks, too. Late one night, a Las Vegas taxi driver gave two reporters an enthusiastic tour of his on-board computer. This small "black box," with LED and wireless communications connects to the cab company dispatcher, uses the satellite-based Global Positioning System to show drivers the available jobs near their current location. Drivers can claim the closest fare by touching a button.
The graveyard-shift driver, who said he throws "a drunk out of my cab at least once a night," was proof that networking technology can beguile even the most jaded native. "Sometimes," he said, "when it's three o'clock in the morning and I don't have a job, I just sit here and play with the computer."
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