March 12, 1997 6:00 PM ET

Cisco draws map for melding data centers and intranets
By Paula Musich

  The data center meets the intranet in the latest SNA and TCP/IP integration strategy saga from Cisco Systems Inc.

The networking behemoth earlier this week outlined with great fanfare its strategy for bringing together IBM System/390 mainframe data centers and corporate intranets. The new CiscoBlue Intranet Roadmap builds on a CiscoBlue road map announced last year, which Cisco is still working to complete, according to Lisa Lindgren, product manager for Cisco, in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

"CiscoBlue is the road map of Phases 6 through 10 of our integration strategy for converging SNA and LAN technologies," Lindgren said. "We're continuing to deliver on that convergence road map. The new focus is on intranet technologies and TCP/IP and carrying SNA applications over those networks."

Some analysts briefed on the announcement criticized Cisco for focusing on architectures and frameworks instead of real solutions.

"This is nothing more than a re-presentation of the 'marketecture,' " said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects Inc., in Washington. "It's all paper-a repositioning of IOS [Internetwork Operating System] from the desktop to the mainframe, and IOS is everything."

Others were more sanguine.

"IBM used to provide the blueprints around SNA. It's Cisco now with things like CiscoBlue that provide a systematic road map that says, 'This is where you are, these are the technologies available, and this is how you can phase that technology in as you re-engineer your network," said Anura Guruge, an independent consultant in New Ipswich, N.H.

The CiscoBlue road map is based on Cisco's relationship with OpenConnect Systems Inc. and Interlink Computer Sciences Inc. Last December, Cisco acquired an equity stake in OpenConnect and announced it would offer a new series of WebAccess/390 browser-based SNA host access software developed from OpenConnect's OC://WebConnect emulator and OpenVista Java development tools. Cisco also took a minority stake in Interlink and announced that it would extend portions of its IOS software into MVS mainframes on top of Interlink's TCPaccess protocol stack for MVS.

Cisco also announced as a part of its road map the release of OC://WebConnect and OpenVista, saying it will enhance each in another release due by midyear. Cisco will add file transfer, printing, and cut and paste functions as well as greater visibility to IBM's NetView network management system. At the same time, OpenVista will gain Digital Equipment Corp. VT 220 support, the ability to pull together data from multiple hosts on a single screen and additional Java controls.

Next month, Cisco also will release IOS for System/390 Release 1.0, which includes the Interlink TCPAssist software and off-loads some host TCP/IP processing such as checksum processing. A second release of the software, due in the second half of this year, will add support for Cisco's Interior Gateway Routing Protocol-adding Cisco's proprietary routing software to IBM's MVS mainframes.

"That's interesting because it gives them a footprint in the mainframe and gives them greater control of the network and the application platform," noted Don Czubek, president of Gen2 Ventures, in Saratoga, Calif. "Cisco is following the old IBM model, where they always had VTAM [Virtual Telecommunications Access Method] on the mainframe and wanted people to march to their tune."

Other deliverables in the road map that will roll out over the next 24 to 48 months include support for different data streams, enhanced end-to-end security for authentication, authorization and single log-on, and more efficient and scalable communication between the host and client through new Web LU and Web TX protocols.

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