I.T. Times
Volume 5, No 1 Information Technology News of the University of California, Davis September 1996

Ag Econ Poised and Ready for Network 21

by Aviva Luria, Information Technology

When it comes to Network 21, the Agricultural and Resource Economics Department is in an enviable position. Thanks to a bit of luck and the foresight of programmer/analyst Jerry Nishimoto, Ag Econ is about as ready as can be for transitioning to Network 21.

Two years ago, Ag Econ moved from its former digs (divided between Voorhies and AOB4) to the Social Science and Humanities building, which is wired with 10BASE-T, category 5 cable and fixtures -- the sort of stuff required to hook up to Network 21. This makes life easier for Nishimoto, who can simply call Information Technology to activate the existing 10BASE-T NAM when a new faculty member moves in. Back in the old space, Nishimoto would have had to ask Physical Plant to string new cable into the office to create a new network connection.

The move to the Social Sciences and Humanities building was a smooth one. "Basically it was a matter of shutting down the systems in AOB4. A crew of graduate students helped carry the computers and within an hour we were up and running again," Nishimoto says.

Nishimoto credits the smooth transition to advance planning. Kevin Harrington of I.T. Communications Resources worked with Kathy Edgington, a programmer/analyst for Ag Econ, to check all the NAMs in the new space to ensure they were functional. The testing and planning were so complete that the move amounted to little more than "taking apart, pulling together and plugging in," says Nishimoto. The only equipment he remembers purchasing were media converters to thinnet systems.

How does Nishimoto view the upcoming transition to Network 21?

"Fortunately, because we're all 10BASE-T and everything is category 5, I'm not anticipating a whole lot of changes in terms of hardware. Moving into this building inadvertently forced us to be ready for Network 21," he says.

Things would have been different had Nishimoto remained in Voorhies and AOB4, where Ag Econ shared a subnet with another department. In 1984, when Ag Econ grew too large for Voorhies and spread across the street to AOB4, the department paid for a thick ethernet line to connect the two buildings.

The connection was made before ethernet was commonly used, and it constituted the backbone for Ag Econ's Local Area Network. The department bought a router, hooked up its VAX workstations, and connected its LAN to the campus network. Troubleshooting often meant cutting off a piece of the cable.

"People take Ethernet for granted now," Nishimoto says, "but back then we were doing things blind in a way."

Because of the way Ag Econ's network grew, the network used many different protocols.

"We put in our own thick (ethernet) before there were any specifications, we added GatorStar for the Mac users -- it was working, but I knew our network should have been performing better than it was."

When Ag Econ moved to Social Sciences and Humanities building, Nishimoto saw a dramatic difference in the reliability and performance of the local area network. As far as Network 21 goes, Ag Econ is resting easy.