Printed on 31-05-2013 16:12:12
Publisher …. Arnoldo Mondadori – Mondadori’s Company Archive
Magazine ….Pc Week
Publication Date ….10/29/1987
Publication Number…. 0002
Page Number…. 0047
Section ….Experience & Opinions
Summary …. Ecofuel has installed a 10-Net local area network to manage a company that operates in the fast growing market of additives for environmentally friendly fuels.
Author …. Roberto Mazzoni
Topics …. Industry Automation Computer Chemistry
Location…. Europe – Italy Area-Nato
Subjects …. Enichem Ecofuel
Creation Date ….01/25/1988



Ecological additives for industrial fuels:Installing local area 10-Net networks that allow users to exchange electronic documents and mutual access to central data banks of the parent company :How to access the mainframe

Main Article Text

DSCF7720 copiaThe Group EniChem has developed for the past ten years technologies for the production of a petrochemical gasoline additive called (MTBE), which is proposed as an alternative, to ethanol in the manufacturing classification of so-called green gasoline. Ecofuel is the responsible company which is part of the Enichem Group; this company created in early 1986 was to sell know-how in this field all over the world and participate in the construction and management of industrial plants synthesizing the product. The staff has almost doubled in the space of six months, from 30 to 54 employees, following the rapid evolution of this particular market, which attracts both petrochemical multinationals, as well as public entities. In fact, in a few years, there was added to the original EniChem pilot plant in Ravenna, a second one in the Persian Gulf, which is managed with the participation of the OPEC countries while a third one will soon be born in Venezuela, with funding from the local government.

Why install a network to solve the informational problems related to this kind of rapid growth?

Ecofuel installed in October of last year a local 10-Net, a joint project of Olivetti- Ose Lifeboat. This network, originally conceived for 25 workstations, today connects 29 personal computers, almost one for every two employees. The first objective was to allow users the exchange of electronic documents locally generated and access to the central databases of the parent company. Secondly, the company wanted to create a local information system that could evolve rapidly while being free from the edp of the Enichem Group. These objectives have been achieved with limited costs and organizational efforts, for example, there was no need to buy large computers or particularly sophisticated software. There were also numerous benefits for the company officials; for example, on a personal computer, they could be using some packages that were solely available before on the mainframe, such as Focus or Sas, and find them easier to use in the MS-DOS version, than in the original version.

How to access the mainframe?

The access to the Group databases is carried out by means of a specific link card (gateway) installed on only one of twenty-nine points in the network. This card is seen as a network resource by each connected user, making it possible to send and receive telexes, with Snamtelex service, (which is connected to the public network), so one doesn’t have to get up from their desk, or withdraw information from the central archives of other associated companies. Ecofuel in its first year of experience found that it only had some problems to solve related to network installation. The most difficult hurdle to overcome was the placement of the Net 10, but finding the multi-user software that would work. The company, in fact, found that most individual productivity packages offered by the market could be only be shared partially. The personnel staff who used Lotus, Olitext, Plus, or WordStar, found that they must locally activate the program on their workstations, availing themselves of the floppy or hard drive so that the network is being used only for the exchange of documents. The single program fully shared is accounting, tailor-made for the network environment. From the beginning, the Ecofuel technicians had chosen an accounting package that fully satisfied the requirements of the administrative offices, but that the program was born to run in batch mode rather than as an interactive program. The response times were unacceptable for the processing requirements of the company so that after the first few months of experimentation it was necessary to change the program thereby isolating the accounting department from the other users on the network, forming a core of five workstations connected to a dedicated server network (Sanco iBex). By doing so, the integrity of the accounting data was safeguarded preventing any alteration by an operator outside of the administrative department, and, what’s more, there was improved response time in this island system. Unfortunately, there has yet to be found a solution for the loss of productivity that occurs when printing accounting journals, which lasts from four to five hours, almost freezing all other work. Problems aside, during the trials of the network there also occurred a fact that was unforeseen and positive. Users found that it was much simpler approaching the personal computer than approaching a traditional terminal and, thanks to this attitude, the learning period of the various procedures were shortened. Danilo Lepori is a witness, to the fact that from the very beginning of the experiment, network managers had carried out the functions of a new professional network services manager role,which lay on the border between the end-user and the center edp. Lepori stated that when working on the terminal, operators acted with the greatest prudence daring to effect only those operations rehearsed many times. From this time onward the personnel in dealing with this system feels less restrained and at the same time more empowered.

It is essential to adhere to standards.

In the future, there remain some open questions. In the first place, one must be aware of the immediate need to expand the network. In addition, the company must achieve greater integration with the information services of the parent company. There are two technological limitations that, at this time, do not allow us to achieve complete expansion and integration. The network 10-Net, does not handle serial port devices, so that users may not share resources such as plotters, modems, or printers with a serial interface. We find that it is still unfeasibility for the connection between the network and the EniChem of Olgiano mainframe that conveys information with the protocol and the standard Bsc. Although there are still several machines that use this protocol in our country, it fell into disuse in the United States and software producers for networks gave priority to the development of programs that use the standard IBM-Sna interface.

The case of Ecofuel, therefore, shows us that the installation of a local network of personal computers may be a simple undertaking if one meets the condition of adhering to the established standards. However, when the company s reality is exceedingly complex this by itself imposes the use of more sophisticated systems, such as departmental networks composed of personal computers governed by minicomputers.

Roberto Mazzoni