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Intranets Become Infrastructure

A report from this fall's Networld+Interop show.

By the year 2010, the Internet as we know it will disappear. It will intertwine with networks, appliances and devices which will make people stop thinking of it as a separate entity. Rose Ann Giordano, a keynote speaker at this fall's Networld+Interop trade show in Atlanta, stated that the Internet "will be so pervasive it will disappear from view." Giordano, a vice-president at Digital, stated the Internet will be ubiquitous and will have embedded smart objects that will "think" and "do" for us.

For years we have seen the building of the Internet (public) and "intranet" (private) infrastructure reach far beyond our expectations. Building these infrastructures had been, in the past, the biggest challenge. But the new challenge that should concern us lies in managing that infrastructure.

At the Networld+Interop show, there were 549 exhibitors challenging some 43,000 attendees to design and manage their company's mission-critical networks. Additionally, 78 vendors showed their Internet business applications and services at a subsidiary show called Interop DotCom, held at the World Congress Center. All-in-all the theme of the show remained the same, focusing concern on managing the infrastructure and finding technologies that will give new opportunities for companies to enhance their networking and communication capabilities.

Three of the important issues we will contend with in the near future, according to Giordano, are bandwidth, content and business models. The bandwidth challenge will inevitably be resolved by the competition sparked by business demands on technology and makers of technology. Companies will see the importance of intranets and design their networks around them.

Another keynote speaker, Roel Pieper, president and CEO of Tandem Computers Inc., discussed the convergence of the Internet and intranet technologies and the impact it would have on businesses. Pieper forecasts that the shared Internet and intranet technologies can be blended, enabling the enterprise to use a single, low-cost, universal access network to connect companies' employees, suppliers, customers and potential customers. Other keynote speakers Eric Schmidt, CTO of Sun Microsystems Inc., and Irving Wladawsky-Berger, general manager of the Internet division at IBM, also spoke about the new era of Internet/intranet convergence and management.

InteropNet -- Networld+Interop's display of connectivity technology -- used equipment from diverse vendors at multiple and remote sites, with different media and protocols. The physical network comprised 65 miles of unshielded twisted-pair cable, 60 miles of fiber-optic cable, three miles of shielded twisted-pair cable and over 2,000 pieces of networking equipment including routers, switches, bridges and concentrators. This year's InteropNet used Fast Ethernet and VG AnyLAN -- the two main contenders in the race of the next generation of Ethernet -- and LANE, the latest in LAN Emulation over ATM. These new generations of technology, along with classics FDDI and Ethernet, were also employed.

InteropNet enabled attendees to learn about preserving their existing network investment and extending their network environment beyond the enterprise.

Another area that brought hands-on capabilities to attendees was Novell's Connecting Points. The messaging system allowed attendees to send and receive personal e-mail messages from Novell Connecting Points found within the Georgia World Congress Center. Each attendee was able to set up an individual free GroupWise account to communicate with anyone at Networld+Interop and Interop DotCom or e-mail users outside the GroupWise System. This connectivity avenue was made possible over the InteropNet.

There were several "classroom" sessions held during the trade show. Leaders in CTI, switching technologies and voiceLAN gave a test drive of the future of CTI in voiceLAN networking; demonstrated multimedia applications on a common ATM backbone; and discussed the real value of voiceLAN and how to implement it.

There was also a LAN ATM classroom where attendees learned how to configure an SVC connected network under RFC 1577 and connect legacy equipment to an ATM backbone. The WAN ATM classroom provided ways to configure voice traffic through ATM cell muxes and video teleconferencing equipment.

After show hours, "birds of a feather" topic-focused sessions allowed attendees to learn from colleagues and experts.

An IP switching solutions showcase gave attendees a way to see and hear how key vendors use IP Switching with existing IP-based networks, applications and tools, across a range of network environments. Five scenarios were displayed:

A workgroup and campus backbone connectivity in a private LAN environment.
Compatibility of IP Switching with existing networks as it was exemplified by the Networld+Interop show network.
IP Switching in the Internet.
IP Switching over the WAN using dedicated high-speed links.
Broadband access to IP Switch networks and the Internet using ADSL.
All of the scenarios showed how IP Switching protocols enable existing ATM platforms to participate in IP Switch networks while continuing to maintain support for standard ATM services.

Attendees visiting "Start-Up City" got to look at the future of net-
working. Companies displayed their innovative new products and emerging technologies.

A special day was dedicated to Netscape, where attendees were able to learn about the secrets of developing the best high-performance Internet/ intranet cross-platform applications using Netscape technology. The first part of the day was dedicated to learning about Netscape architecture so attendees could build their own development program. There were six technical sessions covering a variety of topics, including: Internet Application Framework, Client-Side Integration, 3-D Web Sites and VRML, Database Connectivity and Livemedia Framework.

The "Best of Show" awards -- honoring products and services that significantly advance the state of the art of distributed computing and networks -- were given to the following vendors in the following categories:

Grand Winner: IBM's Multiprotocol Switched Services Server.
Internet/intranet: Vienna Systems' Vienna.way.
Network Analysis and Monitoring: Network General's Network General Service Level Manager.
Network Applications and Services: Banyan Systems' StreetTalk for Windows NT.
Network Infrastructure: IBM's MSS Multiprotocol Switched Services Server.
Network Servers and Peripherals: Network Appliance's NetApp Web Filer.
Network and Systems Management: Netvision's Synchronicity for NT.
Remote Access: U.S. Robotics' EdgeServer.
WAN Services and Equipment: Cisco Systems' Stratacom BPX-ST.