LAN pilot project points to the future of networking

LAN pilot project points to the future of networking

-!@-/)))))))777777G7W94))IVANS has implemented a local area network (LAN) internetworking system to link various databases between its main locations in Greenwich, Connecticut and Tampa, Florida. The pilot program could resemble the future of networking computers in decentralized organizations.

LANs connect several machines allowing them to share functions such as files, printers and communications. Typically, this occurs among machines operating in the same office or building. LAN internetworking, however, refers to LAN-to-LAN or LAN-to-mainframe applications over wide-area-networks (WANs).

Internetworked LANs can operate locally or can link remote sites. Connectivity between the home office in Greenwich and the market and customer support functions in Tampa is currently maintained via a fractional T1 line running at 256 KB.

Gene Hengel, IVANS’ director of strategic technologies, in an interview with IVANS News, says that IVANS will be testing dial connectivity to the internetworked LAN as well. IVANS’ staff in other parts of the country will use laptops to dial the system to retrieve information such as customer invoices and other account data.

Electronic communications among unlike E-mail platforms

Lotus Notes is the primary application running in the IVANS Novell Netware Environment. UNIX database design and client-server development is underway on IVANS’ RS/6000 platform. IVANS also is piloting IBM’s Mail LAN Gateway/2 product. This assists in the exchange of E-mail among unlike E-mail platforms. This will allow Notes E-mail users to communicate with the outside world via Mail Exchange.

Hengel explains that IVANS is building a base of communications that mirrors what is happening out in the industry. By doing pilots of advanced technologies as they come onto the market, IVANS is better able to understand and validate them.

The push toward LAN dial applications is being driven by the increasing numbers of mobile workers using laptops in the insurance industry. These “telecommuters” include the traditional mobile workers, like claims adjusters and agents, but growing numbers of formerly in-house employees now are working elsewhere or will be in the future.

Mobile workplace requirements

These workers need remote access to the applications now sitting on their LAN. In short, they want to get to the server machine on their desk just as if they were sitting in an office. As more and more workers enter this mobile force, the concept of their “office” could quickly disappear, with the real office actually being their laptop or perhaps their personal PC at home.

These mobile workers need access back to applications. And they want it to be accomplished via a local call wherever they may be. They also want high-speed access. If they’ve come from an office environment where they were attached to a multi-megabyte LAN, they’re used to instant access. And the applications have to work effectively at a remote location, as well as locally.

IVANS is looking at several solutions to these problems.

Remote control is one solution that solves security problems and some other concerns. In effect, remote control turns a laptop computer into a dumb terminal that accesses and uses the LAN. However, the machine would have to access the software of the LAN since it’s turned into a dumb computer. So, the performance is limited.

Remote node is another solution. In this case, the computer actually becomes a node on the LAN system, so the full power of the laptop still is available, while full access to the LAN still can occur. There are some security issues since a node on the system would have access to anywhere that the LAN is connected. Another disadvantage is the fact that the each software package being on the remote laptop or notebook would have to be licensed to each remote user and there’s a cost in doing that.

As far as local calling from anywhere, companies are focusing on the ability to dial into a WAN, Hengel says. These solutions, however, are usually somewhat specific to a particular client.

IVANS is working with Advantis on two or three solutions for members.

One major P/C company has a pilot with 30-plus customers, Hengel reports, that is supporting multiple protocols and allowing users to dial back in to the WAN and route information back to the customer’s LAN.

Advantis offers a single protocol solution called “SLIP Dial” that allows users to dial into their LAN through Advantis, provided the user supports the IP protocol (Internet).

IVANS has two pilot projects underway with SLIP dial.

Once these pilots are complete, the results will be incorporated into a new Advantis strategy to provide lower-cost access and a more comprehensive fleet of dial capabilities, Hengel says.

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