DCRT's TCP/IP-Based FacilitiesSupport with Windows 95 Projected for Spring 1996
DCRT recommends Windows 95 for general distribution/use at NIH beginning in the Spring of 1996. Two issues were significant in developing this recommendation. First, it may take some time (and perhaps an upgrade or two) before this major new operating system is sufficiently robust for production applications. Second, there are several software facilities provided by DCRT that are not yet ready for use in the Windows 95 environmentæeither because there has not been an opportunity to test them or because they depend on new Windows 95 compatible commercial software not yet available from vendors.
A significant compatibility problem, for example, arises with FTP Software's PC/TCP (a software product used to implement the TCP/IP protocol). Installing Windows 95 on a PC will cause DCRT's current production level of PC/TCP version 3.0 to fail. Thus, PC/TCP's TN3270 (used to access the ADB via NIHnet), FTP (used for uploading/downloading files via the network), and Telnet (used for logging on to WYLBUR and Helix) will not be available. Windows 95 includes a limited replacement for some, but not all, of these PC/TCP facilities.
In 1990, when DCRT became heavily involved in networking, it realized that NIH would achieve maximum benefits if it could provide a degree of uniformity for network communications. Toward this goal, DCRT evaluated TCP/IP software for PCs and selected PC/TCP for distribution to NIH. It was envisioned that this uniformity would provide a common infrastructure for future TCP/IP-based services to be offered via NIHnet (e.g., the ADB Flashpoint application and IMPAC II Oracle clients). DCRT still supports PC/TCP (and OnNet, its follow-on) and has distributed 3,500 copies of the product that are in use at NIH today.
Since DCRT expects Windows 95 to become the industry norm desktop operating system for PCs (perhaps in conjunction with Windows NT), plans are in place for moving to this new technology. FTP Software has just made a new version of its product available that should install easily into a Windows 95 environment, work with the Windows 95 TCP/IP stack, and provide the critical facilities (e.g., TN3270) that are not included with Windows 95. DCRT is actively examining this version and expects to make it available for user test during the next few months, and generally available by Spring, 1996. Additionally, DCRT plans to continue supporting PC/TCP for DOS and Windows as long as appropriate.
This approach to Windows 95 support reflects DCRT's continued commitment to providing appropriate networking options for NIH. During the past few years, computer networking has become extraordinarily important to NIH and the world in general. We now use the network to connect to the NIH mainframes, send electronic mail to professional colleagues around the world, transfer data files and reports from distant computers, and gather multimedia information from sources that can be located continents away via World Wide Web Internet browsers.
Stayed tuned for more information on DCRT's Windows 95 support in future issues of INTERFACE.
Interface 192 (September 15, 1995)