server. Most of his data was in IBM's DB2 mainframeclass database-management system and housed in a network system that speaks Token Ring instead of the Ethernet spoken by the desktops. Rather than converting the data or reworking the back-end network, Estensen went in search of a network-level product that could convert Token Ring to Ethernet. He selected a Cabletron switch because of its modular, scalable components, its available suite of options and its solid network management. He set up a fiber link from the back end to the switch to ensure solid back-end performance.

"My background is networking," Estensen said. "I knew what I wanted to do and was intent on using the same manufacturer throughout. We bought considerable equipment -- the same kind of equipment over and over. Once we learned it, we had it."

As of late 1998, the connectivity to the back end was in place, and the LAN was built -- Estensen had 10MB or 100MB Ethernet at every desktop.

This left the task of connecting the two. The back end was successfully passing the information, so the next step was to get the Domino developer to receive the data and display it. Estensen hoped to have the production system in operation near the beginning of this month.

Soon after, Estensen plans to focus on online commerce, since Marietta is in the electric-power business already and, with deregulation of the gas industry, plans to get into natural gas as well.

Keeping the existing data on a legacy back end and simply translating the protocol at the switch allowed Estensen to avoid the hassles of data and network migration. Estensen highlighted one factor as being key to the success he's had to date: "I've been here less than three years. The first thing I did was stop everything and built a good network. Otherwise you're building a house of cards. We have the Internet to every desktop and a robust network."

From the Ground Up

Ira Brand, the enterprise network engineering manager for Georgia's Department of Human Resources, is responsible for a 41-story building that was three-quarters Token Ring and one-quarter Ethernet. As part of a larger effort to standardize all equipment and software, Brand decided to convert entirely to Ethernet. Fortunately, most of the existing equipment was at or near the end

of its serviceable life and so was due for replacement. Brand got rid of the Token Ring hubs and replaced them with Cabletron Smart Switches.

"We were trying to make life easier for our support, by having one vendor [for each type of product] -- the same Ethernet cards in all computers, the same switch on all the floors," Brand said. "We have some systems [still] using Token Ring, but they will be switched over to Ethernet. To get to the mainframe SAA gateways, we put a card in the Cisco router."

The department's effort to standardize has gone well beyond the network hardware -- workstations are all Compaq, productivity software is Microsoft Office 97, databases are Oracle, and Netware's NDS ties it all together.

Although the general advantages of standardization made the support team's job that much easier, a key part of the change was the ability to smoothly manage the entire network.

"NDS is fabulous," Brand said. "I can administer my firewall, DHCP, proxy server, NT machines, single login, single password and all my printers from my desktop -- one machine, one program. I can create policies through NDS for Windows 95 and NT -- I can create a policy so that if a user changes their look on the desktop, within minutes, it can change back. If they delete a program it is back before they can blink -- NDS takes care of that."

To further the standardization, during

David Aden  | 
David Aden is a writer from Washington, D.C.