Mainframe Access Can Be a Dirty Job - But Not for Communications Server for NT

The Department of Employment, Education, Training, and Youth Affairs (DEETYA) in Canberra, Australia, is the government agency that matches Aussie job seekers with job vacancies and training opportunities. To do so, 2,500 case managers at 700 locations need host terminal emulation on local client/server applications to access an IBM DB2 database containing job listings and training providers.

In 1997, unreliable mainframe access was undermining DEETYA productivity and creating unnecessary expense. According to Jane Kozak, DEETYA’s Assistant Director of Communications, "We found that our host access product wasn’t particularly robust in the way it handled SNA - in some situations, it would drop its connections to the mainframe. The SNA gateway solution just wasn’t robust enough," she continues. "We didn’t think it was going to scale up."

Furthermore, even when the server stayed up and DEETYA wasn’t rebooting it, users were still dropping out because of problems with the agency’s dial-up service. "Users would get kicked off. They then dial back up again, but then they couldn’t access any of their mainframe services because the service log thought they were already logged in," explains Kozak "When we got into that situation, the only thing we could do was stop and restart all the other services." It became alarmingly clear that DEETYA needed an SNA gateway that could handle more capacity without dropping users.

The agency installed two IBM eNetwork Communications Servers for Windows NT, each supporting 500 users, to access their mainframe applications without having to change them. The product had an immediate impact. Roy Stockman, Communications Specialist at DEETYA, says, "we migrated to Communications Server overnight, and all the problems went away the next day. It was a very, very smooth changeover - it took only two to three hours." Since then, Communications Server has proved an extremely scalable solution that supports a high number of sessions and users while providing host access over both TCP/IP and SNA networks.

Communications Server "has [also] been far more robust," adds Kozak. "The capacity, in terms of being able to expand it and add more users, has also been significantly better." More reliable host access increased productivity and reduced maintenance. The product also simplified network administrators’ lives. If a user drops off , DEETYA solves the problem quickly. "We could not do that with our previous product," says Kozak. Troubleshooting took too much time and kept clients waiting for the mainframe.

But what DEETYA most admires about the product is its reliability. "It doesn’t break," says Kozak "We have rolled out the solution to several sites, and we haven’t seen any performance degradation in the servers."

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