bridge of the enterprise: What You Should Be Driving Your Network Toward

A large number of AS/400 sites are still working in environments that are antiquated, to say the least. The day has come to evaluate the physical infrastructure you are running on and plan for the future. While doing this, don’t plan on what is currently installed, plan for where you will want to be in five years, since it may take that long to get there.

Many of these sites still use and run Twinax cabling. I find this amazing. For PCs it is slower, and for both PCs and dumb terminals it is costlier, not to mention inflexible in terms of moving equipment and changing environments. If you are moving into new space, refurbishing old space or simply have the luxury of re-running cabling in an existing environment, you should be running no less than fiber in your walls. You need a port anywhere you may think about putting a phone jack. Any less will be a disservice to your company. Chances are that in a relatively short period of time, full motion video and other massive bandwidth hogs will become commonplace.

As the Internet and intranets grow – and more and more companies expand their wide area networks – more attention must be paid to hubs, switches and gateways. Switches provide much better bandwidth and management per port than do hubs. Investments here are fairly pricey, so if budgets are a major concern, spend money closer to the servers, where it will have the biggest impact on your network. This is a great place to start, but don’t stop there. As with all technologies, the costs associated with high-speed Ethernet, ATM and so on will come down as the manufacturers recoup their investments and the competition heats up.

Are you running in a pure IP environment yet? No?! Why? It may not be realistic to expect everyone to have standardized on IP and eliminated any other protocols, but in case you are not aware, you should be headed down that road. It may be difficult to get there, but you will be happy you did the next time you need to make disparate systems communicate. Don’t let the AS/400 serve as an excuse to running anything other than IP. It is as native to the system as SNA ever was. There is no need to run SNA across your network at all anymore, and the more protocols that you run, the more bandwidth you utilize in simply shaking hands.

As you buy new equipment, order it with the highest speed network interface cards offered at the time. Go for a high-speed bus to ensure there are as few bottlenecks between memory, disk, and so on, as possible. As we near the new century we move closer and closer to systems that behave more and more like we see on Star Trek. We will see the day, perhaps not too far down the road, where multiple systems literally behave as one. The speed between these systems will be such that it will give new meaning to the terms interactive and real time.

This stuff is no longer science fiction; it is being used to make people and systems more productive. Whatever technology isn’t there will be coming. Our job is to prepare so we can effectively take advantage of all science fact has to offer without breaking the bank all at once. To move in that direction, begin the process now. Replace what you can when you can and always go for more than you say "we need today." What we need today is obsolete by tomorrow and then the investment needs to be remade. It is far more prudent to spend $2 today then $1.5 today and $2 next week.

A veteran of the IBM midrange arena since 1983, Chris Gloede is executive VP for Business Solutions Group in Wayne, Pa. cgloede@thebsg.com.