Marketplace

Wireless Link Passes Test in Rural Virginia

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) last month helped unveil a wireless communications system in Blacksburg, Va., that reduces the costs involved in bringing broadband service the "last mile" into rural homes and businesses.

The Local Multipoint Distributed Service, a wireless system that relies on radio frequencies, is designed to provide high bandwidth to areas where fiber-optic lines are not available and too costly to install. LMDS transmits data to users from a hub connected to the Internet by fiber-optic lines.

Boucher announced that the first rural test of LMDS had been completed successfully in Blacksburg, thanks to a partnership between Virginia Tech and Wavtrace Inc. The university donated the technical expertise, and Wavtrace donated the technology and equipment to test whether the system will be an effective way of delivering broadband service affordably to homes in rural areas.

"The LMDS deployment in Blacksburg means that truly affordable high-speed Internet access services for the residents of rural America are not just over the horizon," Boucher said. The service is expected to be available commercially in three to five years.

"It's hard to say who is doing what in LMDS," said Cortney Martin, LMDS project director at Virginia Tech's communications network services department. "But this was certainly the first rural deployment in the U.S."

LMDS can transmit data to multiple points at 4.5 megabits/sec, Martin said. Martin demonstrated simultaneous deployment of two-way full-motion video, Internet Protocol voice and analog voice tests, and an increased Internet downloading speed-about 80 times faster than any dial-up method.

In terms of bandwidth, LMDS is the closest competitor to fiber-optic wiring, which can cost from $50,000 to $1 million per mile, Martin said. "I know we can already beat that, not including the spectrum price," she said.

Kimberly Tassin, director of marketing at Bellevue, Wash.-based Wavtrace, said the company was established in 1996 to build its Time Division Duplexing wireless broadband technology from the ground up and is using this partnership to test and improve that service.

- Dan Caterinicchia

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A Glimpse at the Future of Mapping

In a significant step toward integrating geospatial databases worldwide, a geospatial industry group last month demonstrated how industry standards will enable users to tap into numerous databases via the Internet to create multilayered digital maps.

The industry group, the Open GIS Consortium Inc., is a nonprofit membership organization addressing the lack of interoperability among systems that process geo-referenced data and between those systems and mainstream computing systems. The OGC showed during its Web Mapping Testbed demonstration how it will be possible, for example, to access data from map servers located in North America, Europe and Australia to create a map of a hurricane poised to strike Mobile, Ala. The demonstration included such features as focusing on certain areas and showing storm track probabilities.

The ability to access and integrate geospatial data to make such a map has eluded technologists for years because much of mapping data is stored in incompatible software languages and stored on different platforms. The ability to integrate data through the use of standards would improve research that depends on maps, and it would cut expenses because governments would no longer have to duplicate the collection of data.

The development of universal standards for geospatial data transmission would exponentially increase the use of the information worldwide in numerous areas, including national security, environmental management and crime mapping, said Thomas Kalil, special assistant to the president for economic policy for the National Economic Council.

Kurt Buehler, vice president and chief operating officer at OGC, said the group had made progress in standards development, and the standards could be in place by December. "It's just a matter of putting our noses to the grindstone and doing it," he said.

- Dan Caterinicchia

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Tool Zeroes in on Telecom Security Risks

SecureLogix Corp. recently announced the release of a product designed to assess the security of telecommunications networks.

TeleSweep Secure, the company's first product, scans telecom networks for unsecured modem, fax and phone lines that could provide hackers with a back door into a computer network.

Although most organizations have security solutions such as firewalls and vulnerability assessment systems to protect computer networks, intruders often find it easy to access a network through modems that are connected to computers on the network.

An unsecured modem left on and connected to the network, whether it is at an agency, at home or on a mobile system, provides a hole for intruders to get into the network. It also enables them to completely bypass any network protections in place, according to the company.

"Users are basically lazy," said Steve Samaniego, director of product management at SecureLogix. "It's easy to put in the modem, and they don't take the time to include the security."

TeleSweep Secure uses dialers to automatically call and scan an organization's telephone lines to determine if they are connected to a modem, fax or phone line.

When the system detects a modem, it attempts to penetrate the network through that modem using password guessing, then it reports to a central management server whether the modem is secure.

SecureLogix is picking regional value-added resellers and systems integrators to sell the product in the state and local market, according to the company.

- Diane Frank

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Sun Targets Schools With New Thin Client

Sun Microsystems Inc. has unveiled its Sun Ray 1 network appliance in a bid to cut management, maintenance and upgrade costs for businesses further than previous thin-client devices have allowed.

Unlike prior network computers-including Sun's own JavaStation-the Sun Ray 1 device requires no processing on the client side, according to Sun officials. The Sun Ray 1 displays applications running on the server side and provides an input mechanism that lets users access those applications.

"We have created a stateless and compute-less desktop to get you off the upgrade track for good," said Ed Zander, Sun president and chief operating officer.

The Sun Ray 1 measures 11 inches by 12 inches and is 4 inches thick, incorporates a MicroSPARC chip, 8M of RAM, and a smart card reader, but no operating system. The current version of the machine offers no ability to attach local storage.

The device works in conjunction with the company's new Sun Ray enterprise server software and Hot Desk software technology. The server software provides user authentication services and manages software sessions between the client and the server hardware. It also gives users access to networked peripherals.

The Hot Desk software, in conjunction with the smart card reader incorporated into the Sun Ray 1, lets users call up applications from any Sun Ray 1 device. Users need only to slip their smart card into a Sun Ray 1 to access their applications from the server, Sun officials said.

Sun Ray 1 is aimed at the business and education markets, Sun officials said. One of the main messages conveyed to businesses and schools is that Sun Ray will save on upgrade and management costs.

"I was able to cut my prices $390 to $149 per person per year" using the Sun Ray technology, said Jim Pennington, chief of innovation at Learningstation.com, Charlotte, N.C. The company was enlisted to be a part of the Sun Ray 1 test program. The company offers educational computing products to schools and recently switched from Microsoft Corp.-based technology to the Sun Ray 1. Cost savings are achieved mainly because all network administration is done centrally, Pennington said.

Sun has priced the Sun Ray 1 for workgroups of 50 to 200 users at less than $30 per month, per user. The price buys a bundle that includes the StarOffice software suite, a keyboard and mouse, a 17-inch Sun monitor and Sun Ray enterprise server software.

The Sun Ray 1 devices alone are priced at $9.99 per month but do not include a monitor and require that the Hot Desk and Sun Ray enterprise server software be purchased separately, starting at $495 per one-CPU server.

Individual Sun Ray 1 devices are priced at $499, without monitor or server-side software.

- Marc Ferranti, IDG News Service

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Amdahl Delivers 'Millennium' Server to San Antonio

In its latest effort to become Year 2000-compliant, San Antonio has deployed Amdahl Corp.'s Millennium mainframe server. As part of the city's core information technology infrastructure, the server will be capable of managing the more than 1 million daily transactions performed by city departments.

San Antonio signed a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Amdahl Global Solutions in October 1998 and has done business with the company since the early 1980s, said Nancy Dean, assistant information services manager and the coordinator of San Antonio's Year 2000 efforts.

Amdahl servers and products handle the city's critical agencies and services, including public safety, the municipal court, the city clerk's office and the health district.

"We have 13 million lines of mainframe code that are virtually done with their Y2K remediation," Dean said. "Our fire, police and emergency medical dispatch systems, which are all mainframe-based, have been compliant since Jan. 1 of this year."

In addition to the Millennium server in the city's main computer room, San Antonio also uses Amdahl's EnVista servers, Spectris storage and Transparent Data Migration Facility storage management solution to ensure Year 2000 compliance and form an infrastructure capable of supporting 32 mission-critical departments, 11,000 employees and 1.2 million residents.

- Dan Caterinicchia

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Check Point Secures Net From Within

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. last month announced its new virtual private network architecture, which will provide high-availability security not only from network to network but also within an agency.

The firm's Secure Virtual Network (SVN) architecture is a long-term strategy to bring the encryption and authentication offered by VPN solutions to the client and application levels.

Most organizations have focused on using firewalls to block intruders from outside the network and VPN technology to securely connect trusted external users and partners. But analysts and agencies agree that about 80 percent of security breaches come from people inside an organization, and Check Point is positioning its technology as the way to enforce security at the user level.

"It's providing VPN technology on the corporate network," said Greg Smith, Check Point's director of product marketing. "Most people recognize that the majority of threats happen within the network...and we see VPNs being throughout the enterprise."

In the first step toward this functionality, Check Point announced several new products and enhancements to its central VPN and firewall offerings. Check Point's new VPN-1 SecureClient and SecureServer extend the security of external connections to clients inside the network. The internal VPN connection encrypts all traffic among clients and between a client and the server behind the organization's firewall.

VPN-1 SecureClient also provides a personal firewall that uses the policies defined by the system administrator to protect the information stored on each system from intrusion while connected to the network.

"It's encrypted from the time the information leaves the end user's PC, so it's virtually unhackable," said Betty Gifford, senior analyst with the networking and telecommunications integrated services program at Dataquest, a market research firm .

"You can actually go in and get SecureClient and SecureServer products that allow you to have guarantees for the security of your data across and outside of your network," Gifford said.

- Diane Frank

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