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- JANET USER GROUPS
- THE JNT NAME REGISTRATION SCHEME
- SERC SUPPORT OF MULTI USER MINIS
- REPORT ON PRIME USER GROUP MEETING
- REPORT ON GEC USER GROUP MEETING
- REPORT ON VAX (VMS) USER GROUP MEETING
The GEC systems have run without problems since my last editorial but there have been some difficulties for Prime users associated with FTP and therefore batch input and output on the IBM/ATLAS10 system. Hopefully these are problems of the past as the major FTP difficulties have been resolved. The Prime 9950 at UMIST is already heavily loaded and is suffering from its known lack of memory. It is hoped to provide a 2 megabyte upgrade in the near future. Some early information on the P9950 is given in this issue. The workload on the IBM/ATLAS10 batch system has increased and we are now delivering in excess of 250 360/195 equivalent hours each week. Normally there is no backlog on Monday mornings and the belief is that there is still plenty of spare capacity in the system. CMS users have suffered as a result of the test with the ATLAS10 as the Front End. We apologise for this but it is important to note that the test did provide valuable pointers to the cause of the MVT storage overwrite problem. A recent software modification already seems to have greatly reduced the frequency of these overwrites. Incidentally we believe the front end performance of the Atlas 10 is largely due to lack of memory. The present configuration has 16 Mbytes compared to 32 Mbytes of the IBM 3081D.
The eagerly awaited report of the SERC Computer Review Working Party was presented to the Central Computing Committee on 25 April. The discussion at the meeting resulted in the need for the report to be rewritten with the CCC comments incorporated. The report will be circulated to the Boards and other relevant bodies before the end of May. The RAL User Liaison Committee will be discussing the report and its final recommendations on 5 June. I understand that the report will have a wide distribution.
Users are asked to note the changes which result from the wider role of Service Line.
The next issue of FORUM84 will have a strong Graphics bias. Readers are asked to bring to our attention any points or queries they wish to raise.
Mike Jane, Head of User Support Group
JANET USER GROUPS
On the 1st April 1984 the management of the academic network was taken over by the Network Executive, and the old SERCnet was absorbed into the new Joint Academic Network (JANET). The aim of the new network is to provide communication facilities to sites in the academic community; this will include all Universities, all SERC and NERC establishments (other Research Councils may become involved later) and SERC supported research workers in the Polytechnics.
The network will provide X.25 Packet-switched communication to each site, and users on a site will gain access to the network by using whatever local communication is the norm on their particular site. The network is therefore primarily a trunk network linking sites to one another rather than individual users to the hosts they use; these are expected to be connected to JANET via their local computing service.
The central facilities of JANET are primarily funded by the Computer Board, which pays for trunk links, switches and their associated operational costs. The Board has set up a Network Advisory Committee to formulate policy for JANET in the light of its objectives and the objectives of the Research Councils, and the wishes of the user community. The committee is also responsible for the monitoring which will ensure that JANET is operated and developed in accordance with the agreed policy.
User input will form a vital part of this monitoring process. However, the number of users involved is very large, probably tens of thousands, and they are distributed over about 150 sites throughout the country. It would therefore be impossible for a single forum to provide them with balanced representation and a two level system of user groups is therefore being set up. This will allow for the discussion of concerns specifically related to use of the network and provide a channel of communication to the Network Executive and the Network Advisory Committee so that user views and problems can be made known.
The user groups will be based on two distinct ways of modelling the user community, in terms of geographic regions and in terms of subject based groups. The regional groups will allow users to express their views in a timely way without requiring a daunting amount of travel. The regions will not correspond exactly to those the Computer Board uses, although the Board's regions represent a starting point. This reflects the fact that many of the connected sites are not Board funded. However, these regions will be purely administrative, and will not be based in any way on the current network configuration, because this may change with time. Any change in configuration should not involve a corresponding change in user group structure. The currently suggested regions are:
- North-east England
- North-west England and North Wales
- South-west England and South Wales
- South-east England
All the sites within each region are being invited to send one or two representatives to an initial meeting within that region, at which it is hoped the corresponding user group will be established. Each region is free to organise its own user group as it sees fit, provided that it accords with a few basic principles as regards eligibility for membership and the necessity for sending forward the appropriate delegation to the National User Group meeting.
In addition to the user groups based on geographical location, a clear need has emerged for groups based on common interests. While there is an obvious danger here of a proliferation of special interest groups which are increasingly narrow in their concerns, there is an obvious benefit in supplying services which are to some extent tailored to the needs of users with similar requirements. There is a general acceptance that subject-based groups will be formed, although precisely how many, and on what basis, has yet to be determined.
Each regional or special interest group will send forward a small number of delegates to a national user group for the network. It is expected that this group will meet about three times a year, although the precise frequency is for the group itself to determine. The chairman of this national group is ex officio a member of the Network Advisory Committee. In order to provide an initial representation on the advisory committee, Dr John Mulvey of Oxford University, who was a member of the network management committee which originally proposed the JANET network, has agreed to represent the users' view until the proposed regional and national user groups can become effective.
It is hoped that the mechanisms which have been outlined here will give an effective voice to the user community. The motive for providing a network is to offer a service to users, and the users must therefore have a say in determining the quality of service provided.
Peter Linington, Head of Joint Network Team and Network Executive
THE JNT NAME REGISTRATION SCHEME
The Name Registration Scheme, or NRS, enables sites within the UK academic community to choose the names by which they wish to be identified and the services they provide in a data communications environment. It supports the registration of names and addresses, and the distribution of the resulting directories. Software is also being developed to permit both local and remote access to these directories. Implementation of the scheme has been undertaken by the Computing Systems Research and Development Section at the University of Salford and began in May 1983.
At the present time the NRS allows a site to register itself as a legal body, to register an institution or institutions within that legal body and to register the computer-orientated names and addresses of entities within a given institution. The NRS process produces derived files, ie directories containing lists of names and the corresponding addresses, from the NRS database. This enables sites participating in the scheme to find the addresses of sites they wish to call or alternatively the names of sites calling them given the calling addresses. Currently semi-automatic facilities exist for sites to edit data in the NRS database relating to their institutions and to specify the derived files they require, (via a request block). The software to create the standard local format file, comprising the requested derived files, at the various sites and to access the data for actual use has been completed and will be available shortly.
There now exists a working, albeit semi-automatic, version, of the NRS. Work will soon commence on fully automating the process. This will comprise the production of a user interface for the input of requests and the production of a mechanism to transmit the derived files to the various sites. Work is ahead of schedule and we hope to have a complete system by the end of May 1984.
The initial registration phase of the scheme, on NRS form A, has been very good. At the time of writing some 62 legal bodies and 97 institutions have been registered, and this process, currently involving the universities and research council establishments (the polytechnics have only just been invited to register), is almost complete. However the registration of entity names and addresses (which will allow real services to be accessed) on NRS forms B, C and D has been proceeding more slowly. By the beginning of February, we had only processed about 20 sets of these forms representing about 42 addressable entities. A fully operational NRS on a nationwide scale will not be possible until a high proportion of all addressable entities have been registered. Therefore would those establishments who have not yet completed their NRS registration please do so as soon as possible!
Information on the following is now available (or soon will be) and can be obtained from your site's Technical Administrator or from the NRS Administrator, Computing Systems R & D, University of Salford.
- A simple guide to the JNT Name Registration Scheme.
- The JNT Name Registration Scheme Technical Guide.
- Technical administrator's X29 facility (allows you to login at Salford and inspect or change your entry).
- Technical administrator's local support package (allows you to inspect or change your entry using local files, editor and software).
- FTP access (allows you to use a local FTP P-end facility to obtain a copy of the NRS derived files).
- Local NRS support package (provides for the building and interrogation of a local NRS database from the derived files).
- NRS name-server access package (allows local software to access a name-server, such as the central site at Salford, for NRS name translation).
- Automatic distribution NOT YET AVAILABLE (allows you to request automatic distribution of new copies of derived files when changes occur. Distribution is by post, FTP or JTMP).
- Local NRS name-server facility, NOT YET AVAILABLE (this facility is an extension of the local NRS support package, and allows the NRS name-server access package to access a local NRS name-server across a network).
A draft version of the current list of registered institutions is in Network News No 19. To obtain a copy of this contact JNT.
Jim Craigie, Joint Network Team
SERC SUPPORT OF MULTI USER MINIS
The Central Computing Committee, after discussions with the Engineering Board, has reluctantly decided to withdraw its support for the GEC machines at Bradford, Cranfield, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Newcastle and Queen Mary College and the Prime machine at Nottingham from 31 March 1985. All the sites affected have been given formal notice of termination of their support contract. Meetings have been arranged with all SERC users affected by this decision and will take place between 8 May and 26 June. All SERC Grant Holders with allocations on any of these machines extending beyond 31 March 1985 will be offered alternative resources on whichever of the SERC facilities best suit their needs (i.e. IBM, ATLAS10, GEC 4090 or PRIME).
Readers may be interested to know that the closure of these machines resulted in two written Parliamentary Questions from the MP for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Full details can be read in Hansard for 2 April 1984.
Mike Jane, Head of User Support Group
REPORT ON PRIME USER GROUP MEETING
The Prime User Group met at Bath on 1 May 1984. Seventeen users attended, with all machines except Nottingham and the University of East Anglia represented. The following points of interest emerged:
- The User Group requested a meeting with the Engineering Board Computing Sub-Committee Study Group when this has been established.
- There was general concern over the staff losses at RAL affecting system software support. The meeting was reassured that the posts still existed, and that recruitment action was in progress.
- The new Graphics support policy was stated. This will be reported fully in the next issue of FORUM 84.
- The meeting will write a paper for the next RAL User Liaison Meeting, emphasising its views on the importance of implementing JTMP on Primes and the other SERC computing facilities.
- There will be a special meeting of the Prime and GEC User Groups on the 11 July 1984 at RAL, where the Computer Review Working Party Report and the' Engineering Board Computing Sub-Committee Study Group will be discussed.
Mike Jane, Head of User Support
REPORT ON GEC USER GROUP MEETING
The GEC User Group met at RAL on 2 May 1984. Seventeen users attended with all sites represented except Cranfield (who sent apologies) and RLGB at RAL (!!!). The main points of interest to arise from the meeting were:-
- Support for NASTRAN is only guaranteed on Primes and the IBM MVT systems.
- Finite Element Software support is only guaranteed on the Primes. No effort is currently available to put the latest system on the GEC 4090 machines.
- The Chairman agreed to take up points 1 and 2, with the appropriate people.
- GEC will be invited to the November meeting to discuss specific software and hardware issues.
- Sites which have received notice of withdrawal of their SERC support contracts are actively looking at ways of retaining their machines. This will involve the University taking over the responsibility for recurrent costs.
- Users expressed concern that GKS was not going to be available on the GEC machines early, if at all.
- Concern was expressed by some users that the support for users moved to other systems as a result of support contract terminations may be difficult to provide.
- A special joint meeting with the Prime User Group will be held on 11 July 1984 at RAL.
Mike Jane, Head of User Support Group
REPORT ON VAX (VMS) USER GROUP MEETING
The SERC VAX (VMS) User Group met in London on 3 May 1984. Eighteen users attended including, for the first time, a representative from the Royal Greenwich Observatory. The following points of interest emerged:-
- Digital has taken over responsibility for the UWIST and St. Andrew's "coloured book" network software. The cost of this software will be 2000 pounds for academic customers after 30 June 1984. Existing users of this software will receive a free DEC licence but must register with Digital at once. Full details of the new arrangements and the appropriate form can be obtained from the Joint Network Team.
- Digital will be invited to the next meeting in September to discuss network software issues.
- The group's configuration data will be added to the already existing configuration register set up by St. Andrews for the Computer Board VAX machines.
- The meeting felt strongly that the recently announced VAX 11/785 should be added to the SERC list of standard computers. This will be taken up via the User Liaison Committee.
- The urgent requirement for a Network Name Server facility will also be brought to the attention of the ULC.
- The group was updated on GKS by Chris Osland from RAL Computing Division The presentation included the latest implementation schedule and some information on the likely distribution methods.