Frontier software enables Win95 use on tactical nets

Frontier Technologies Corp. has developed software that will enable Army PC users to easily use Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 products on its tactical networks. The Army has a multibillion-dollar investment in tactical communications gear to support deployed units but until recently Army users could not easily use Windows 95 products over these essential systems due to the decade-old protocols built into the Tri-Tac and Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) tactical switches.

Frontier a Milwaukee-based software company resolved this problem for Army users by adapting its SuperTCP product to support the use of Windows 95 including e-mail at the request of the 18th Airborne Corps Fort Bragg N.C.

Paul Grefenstette Frontier's government account manager said the company offers the tactical version of its SuperTCP software to the Army at the bargain price of just $99.

Grefenstette said the tactical version of SuperTCP features a Reverse Address Resolution Protocol (RARP) function that dovetails with protocols used in the Tri-Tac and MSE switches.

This function enables computers running Windows 95 to tap into a Tactical Name Server (TNS) - the field version of a Domain Name Server - to establish the computers' Internet Protocol (IP) addresses"RARP lets users 'ping' the TNS over the tactical networks " Grefenstette said "and then establishes the IP address for your [Windows 95] computer."

This is ability to "ping" the TNS - thereby alerting the server to their presence - is essential for tactical users Grefenstette said due to the inherent nature of field networks. "Tactical users travel around and every time they set up and enter a different tactical network the first thing they need to do is obtain an IP address [from that network] " he added.

Chris Williams who recently left the 51st Signal Battalion at Fort Bragg for a job with Northrop Grumman Corp. pushed Frontier to develop the tactical Windows 95 version of the SuperTCP product and praised the company for its work. "Paul did all this on a handshake from me " Williams said "with the expectation that people out in Army land would be interested.... Frontier spent a lot of money developing this software" without a contract.

Technical Tweak

Grefenstette said he saw an opportunity because Microsoft did not build the RARP capability into Windows 95. But all Frontier needed to do was "tweak" an existing 16-bit product developed for Windows 3.1 to run under the 32-bit Windows 95.

"Development time was about three months " Grefenstette said.

During the past year Frontier has sold the tactical version of SuperTCP directly but the company plans to sell the product on a General Services Administration schedule contract as well as on the Army's Portable-2 contact held by Government Technology Services Inc.

Capt. Brian Bell who works in the 18th Airborne automation branch at Fort Bragg said SuperTCP not only supports Windows 95 e-mail but also enables the use of World Wide Web software and pages over the tactical networks.

Since Microsoft incorporated RARP support into Windows NT both Bell and Grefenstette have seen less demand by power users for SuperTCP as they switch to NT.

But Bell said he anticipates that smaller commands that do not migrate to NT will continue to use the SuperTCP package.

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