Networld & Interop in Atlanta last month heralded a series of parallel shows in London, Geneva and Paris over the next few weeks. The show also brought home the fact that the networking world is changing fast. Novell's dominance in the Lan market is under threat, forcing the networking giant to diversify, as well as lick its wounds after selling off its Wordperfect operation.
At the show, US Robotics (USR) confirmed its diversification from modems with Edge Server, a Windows NT server that consolidates remote access, Internet/intranet and Web site processing, and Microsoft Remote Access Services in a single system box.
USR has been playing a softly softly approach with its networking products in the UK, waiting to see if the product category is a major seller before pitching in. But this strategy appears to be changing.
The company unveiled Edge Server in the UK at the Windows NT show in London on 2 October, and first impressions are that USR could be on to a winner. The system seems particularly suited to IT managers wanting to integrate remote access facilities with Internet and Web access.
Staying with the Web, In Context Systems is supplying UK resellers through its European distribution channel. At the Atlanta show, the company took the wraps off Mission Control, an administration package for Web site pages.
This might sound something of a misnomer, because most professional Web creation packages have an index and management facility. Unfortunately, because Web pages are three-dimensional, managing the links to other pages, both on and off a site, can be a bit of a headache.
Mission Control is billed as solving such headaches and, judging from the preview of the package in Atlanta, the software could be something of a best seller.
One of the hottest topics is wireless networking for major applications.
While VHF and infra-red systems are fast becoming passe, it seems that inter-building wireless Lan bridges will be a big seller in the next 12 months.
Nortel is working on a raft of wireless Lan systems which will be shown at the N&I shows in London, Geneva and Paris in the coming weeks. Perhaps the most interesting systems on show at N&I Atlanta last month were the RW Series M digital microwave radio systems, which operate at a very high frequencies of 23GHz and 38GHz.
Despite the high frequencies, the systems are designed for low to medium capacity Lan and Wan links, allowing a real alternative to pay-as-you-go ISDN technology for short hops of up to five miles.
But what goodies can the reseller channel expect from the N&I London, Geneva and Paris shows? One of the most exciting developments in networking is multi-topology video conferencing.
US Internet software house Winnov has just opened its European office in Kinsau, Germany. The first product from the Internet software specialist is Videum, a Windows-based multimedia (including video conferencing) conferencing hardware and software package for PCs that sells for u239, including a monochrome camera. A colour version of the camera is available in the Videum Pro package.
Videum is a PC add-in card that supports integrated audio and video, yet costs little compared with its rivals. Winnov founder Oliver Garbe claims that personal communications for the masses is evolving from email, text chat and text-based Web pages to collaborative computing and interpersonal exchanges with live-content Web pages and audiovisual interaction via the Internet, 'By combining images, audio and video,' he says, 'Videum enables users to seamlessly and inexpensively upgrade existing systems into true personal communications platforms.'
Garbe claims that Videum is application, code and transport-independent.
'This translates into a system that enables users to start with their current communication equipment, such as 14,400bps modems, and evolve towards tomorrow's high-speed technologies without replacing their multimedia solution,' he says.
He adds that Winnov multimedia technology, which has been in development over the past three years, is designed to be cost-effective and easy to use. It complies with multimedia communications requirements.
Winnov president Jim Miller claims the company's development efforts address the specific needs of video conferencing applications, delivering an integrated solution that makes desktop video conferencing possible at a breakthrough price.
'Videum will change the landscape for Windows desktop video conferencing based on its overwhelming acceptance by leading video conferencing companies such as White Pine Software, VDOnet, Netscape, In Soft and others,' he says.
Videum is billed as a low-cost, high-performance video and audio capture and playback system for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. A version is being developed for Windows NT. The half-card ISA PC board is claimed to be fully compatible with Microsoft's Video for Windows as well as Microsoft Sound System. The card does not use IRQ or DMA architecture, which means it can be installed in most PCs without worries about interfering with other cards and add-ons.
Bundled with card is Videum Conf Pro, a software package billed as a complete desktop video conferencing system. It includes the Videum add-on board, colour CCD camera and video conferencing software for use over the Internet, TCP/IP, ISDN or standard modem phone lines.
The system's inputs include composite video (NTSC and Pal) via an RCA connector, S-VHS video and a multimedia expansion port.
It also supports a high-resolution document-mode camera facility that the company says was only previously available on costly boardroom solutions.
Up to three cameras are supported at each end of the system. Audio support includes 16-bit communications-based (8KHz to 48KHz) and multimedia-based (11.025KHz) standards. The onboard power supplies are said to eliminate the need for an external camera power source.
In use, Videum captures high-end video up to a full 30 frames per second at 352 x 240 pixels with 16.7 million colours - a feature which Winnov claims is suitable for Mpeg image authoring.
Bundled with the software is Vid Clip, a drag-and-drop Twain-compatible multimedia capture applet, which allows for still image, audio and motion video clip capture and playback. Captured files are fully Microsoft AVI compliant. Videum is claimed to be the only hardware-based solution endorsed by Netscape to take advantage of its Live Media Web technology.
Electronic Frontier, an Aldermaston-based company well known for its price-busting modems, has unveiled a u169 ISDN PC card. According to company representative Ray Miles, despite the low price point the Teles PC card is capable of everything that most other ISDN adaptors support, including the ability to aggregate two ISDN 64,000bps data channels together under the Euro ISDN system.
'The card does a lot of its work within software. This is possible because most people's PCs are starting to get more powerful, and by taking this approach, the hardware price can be kept down,' he says.
Bundled with the Teles PC ISDN card is the Teles Online ISDN software suite, which Miles claims is highly effective. 'We have priced the Teles PnP S0-16 ISDN card and software at a level that should make it by far the most attractive option for professional PC users who want the fastest possible Internet access, file transfer capabilities or remote Lan access,' he explains.
The Teles PnP S0-16 comes bundled with a set of software tools for ISDN which offer advanced functionality and flexibility. Miles says the Teles Online ISDN suite provides everything required for using the card for Internet and remote network access. For Windows 95 users, an NDIS Wan driver is provided which seamlessly integrates the ISDN card into dial-up networking. The ISDN card is Euro ISDN-compliant and CE approved, making the card suitable for use throughout Europe.
One of the Internet comms products that should get a preview at N&I London is Netex' Internet Transphone. Due to ship to the channel by the end of this year, the Transphone is a black box device that sits between a PC's serial port and a modem/ISDN link to the Internet. It offers facilities like voice telephony and smart card transactions across the Net.
Transphone is intended to help businesses and individuals maximise their involvement in the growing market for Internet telephony and electronic commerce. Users will be able to plug their ordinary phones into Transphone and, with suitable PC software, be able to establish voice telephone calls across the Internet almost as easily as punching in a few digits on a standard phone keypad.
Aileen Meldrum, a representative of Netex parent Firecrest, says Transphone is on course for a fourth quarter launch, although its precise specifications and pricing are still being worked out.
'It's going to be a big thing when it gets launched,' she says. The device is being researched at Firecrest's London headquarters, although much of the decision-making process is carried out at Netex' US headquarters.
Transphone looks rather like a telephone but plugs into a PC instead of a telephone socket. Users can take advantage of the range of Internet telephony products on the market by using the Transphone handset to make calls instead of the PC's microphone and speakers.
The Transphone will also be fitted with a magnetic card stripe reader so users can make purchases over the Net.
Voice across the Internet is going to be a hot topic at the three European N&I shows, just as it was at the N&I Atlanta event. But what few people in the channel realise is that real-world business voice over the Internet systems are already available to resellers.
Vocal Tec is shipping the Internet Phone Telephony Gateway Server, a server system based Dialogic's computer telephony technology. The server has been designed to interface with Pots (plain old telephone service) lines to allow any phone user to access Internet telephony facilities.
The server does not require that phone users have a Vocal Tec 'voice over the Internet' system in place. The server is set up so that inbound calls are routed across the Internet, just as if the call were being routed across a PABX link.
The idea behind the server is that companies can plug their PABX into the system and route calls across the Internet. Companies that have multiple offices can then interconnect their PABXs across the Internet, avoiding the need for expensive leased lines or multiplex equipment.
The server consists of a PC running the Vocal Tec software, a computer telephony card from Dialogic and Windows NT Workstation software. It can handle up to four phone lines on a 133 MHz Pentium PC.
Vocal Tec says its system means that the gateway becomes a global virtual private network, eliminating long-distance or international charges on inter-office calls. It is billed as having multiple features for security, billing, audio quality monitoring and usability.
Security is provided by enabling access to the gateway server only to authorised incoming or outgoing callers, to authorised extensions on the company's phone system or to phone users with a PIN. Telecoms managers can also specify which countries or area codes can be called and the hours of service for each gateway.
For billing, troubleshooting or maintenance purposes, full call status, progress or other information is provided, including whether the call was incoming or outgoing, the date, time and duration, together with the source and destination of the call, the call originator's name and the reason for the end of the call. For enhanced usability, the server can be configured to allow additional calls once connected to the server.
Vocal Tec says complete systems can be bought for $3,995, making the server a sensibly priced alternative to installing and using inter-office leased lines or using standard telephony systems.
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