A Pick System on the Intranet


BACKGROUND:

The City of Garden Grove has been a Pick shop since implementing a Microdata Reality in the late 1970’s. The original system supported 24 users. In 1984 the Reality was replaced by a Honeywell/Ultimate machine with over 100 serial ports for terminals and p rinters. In 1990, the City needed a larger system, so it replaced the Ultimate with a 512 user Data General running DGUX /Advanced Pick. The City though was beginning to use personal computers (PC’s) in the work place. This led to the need for a PC network . A consultant was hired and made a recommendation in 1993, that was declined due to funding.


EVOLUTION:

Still needing a network, Information Systems needed to develope a phase-in plan, so under the direction of its manager, Bob Shingledecker, they set up a mini-lab to evaluate different network solutions for a multi-server environment in June 1993. The first network chosen for testing was Novell 4.0. Novell promised seamless integration of multiple servers. It took 2 CNE’s three weeks to setup the first server and then an additional three weeks to set up a second one. Even so, the integration was not as promi sed. Disillusioned with Novell, Bob, decided to go out and purchase the newly released Windows NT and set it up himself. It took Bob and his staff only 3 days to get NT up and running. However, the speed was unimpressive, the only protocol at the time was unrouteable (Netbeui), and at that time it was unable to share printers with the existing Unix system.


Since the City was already using Unix, this led Bob to consider Unix for networking. After researching Unix networking on the internet, He decided to try and use an NFS network. However, 4 different commercial NFS clients failed to work with Microsoft’s ne wly released Word 6.0. The first NFS product to solve the Word problem was XFS, a shareware NFS client from Germany, available on the net. The internet became an invaluable resource of both information as well as software. The City installed its first prod uction network in July 1994, in its Public Services department using a SCO Unix 486 File Server and 16 XFS/Windows 3.1 clients. The PC’s had dual connections though. Ethernet connections to the local SCO server and serial/mux connections to DGUX/Pick.


In September 1994, IS learned that the City would be moving and that our network project would have to be accelerated. The campus buildings, especially the Police Department, would have to be able to “stand alone and be fully functional.” XFS did not run o n Windows 3.11 at that time so Garden Grove continued its search for a network solution on the internet. That’s when Bob discovered Samba. Samba emulates SMB networks (LanManager, WFW, Windows NT), on Unix. This provided an even easier solution for network ing that required NO additional software to be loaded on the clients, except for Microsoft’s newly released TCP/IP stack for Windows. The next production network was installed December 1994 in the Housing Department using a SCO Pentium File server and 20 W indow for Workgroups (WFW) clients. This network proved to be faster and much easier to maintain. The Server was also running a 16 user license of Advanced Pick (AP) so the clients now had only one connection to the server, Ethernet. Having been such a suc cess, this network was followed almost immediately by another network for the Police Department in January 1995. This included a 48 user license of AP running on a SCO Pentium file server serving 100 WFW clients.


In February 1995, having taken care of all the satellite buildings Bob and staff had to prepare for the City Hall to move, connect all local buildings via Fiber and plan a Wide Area Network (WAN) including a T1 connection to the Public Services Department. Mean while, the discovery of Samba led Bob to the discovery of the Unix Platform it was developed on, Linux. Linux had everything SCO had, plus much, much more including internet tools. Testing began on the use of Linux. Bob said, “Linux was amazingly sim ple compared to SCO, its setup and performance was better then SCO and it was free.” In April 1995, the Public Services Network was converted from SCO/XFS, to Linux/Samba, with noticeable performance improvements. In June 1995, discussion began on what to do with the Data General (DG), as the City planned to move into the new City hall in November. Pick systems released a Beta copy of AP/Linux and the City started testing of AP/Linux in September 1995. After discussions with Pick Systems regarding support o f AP/Linux, it was decided to leave the DG behind and run the City with the successful Intel/Linux/Samba/Pick network. The City also established its presence on the internet in September by setting up a Web page hosted by Deltanet Internet Services, with p lans of bringing it in house in the future.


In November, the DG is left behind and the New City Hall is run by two Linux Pentium File servers. One running Samba and serving the PC network and the other running AP and handling the Pick applications. Together the servers handle 150 WFW clients. In Feb ruary, 1996, Housing’s SCO/AP/Samba Server is changed over to Linux followed by the conversion of the Police server from SCO to Linux in March. Also in March, the fiber backbone is installed through out the Campus buildings. IS is now prepared to set up an intranet. By this time the network consists of 8 servers (5 production Linux servers, 2 lab (test) Linux servers, and 1 Sun server for imaging). The City Hall Samba Server now runs NCSA’s Web Server and the City’s intranet is born. The IS staff begins to work with HTML, Perl and Python to create CGI applications on the web. Then Bob decides to get the Pick Server involved.


The first Web Page to extract data from the Pick Server did so with HTML, CGI, and Perl. It was done by having the Perl script call a Pick application which wrote to a temp file in Unix and then was read by the calling Perl script. This worked but proved t o be slow. Normally you would use redirection to send data to CGI, but that feature would not be available until the next release of AP/Linux. Never one to say quit, Bob decided that it would be even faster if the two servers communicated over sockets. Tru e, but no software existed to do this. So Bob decided to write some. He wrote a Pick program which calls some C routines in Pick to work as a Socket Server on the Pick server and wrote a Perl Script to do the same on the Web Server. The speed was incredibl e! Virtually instantaneously, the data requested by the web page was returned by the Pick server. The City’s intranet is undergoing a growth spurt and a GUI solution for Pick applications has been found.


In June of 1996, the City added a T1 speed Frame Relay connection to Intelenet Internet Services. This also added yet another Linux Server which serves as a Firewall between the new Frame Relay line and the Cities network. They are in the process of bringi ng the City’s World Wide Web page in house. IS can now write applications to make information on their Pick Server available to the world via the World Wide Web. Bob and staff are now busy learning Java. So development continues...


EQUIPMENT

Over 300 486 and Pentium PC’s running WFW, Microsoft Office, and Netscape Navigator. All connected with 10baseT Ethernet cards (NE2000 and 3COM). Microsoft Telnet is used to connect to the Pick Server. In house (Visual Basic) program is run at startup to c onnect users to a home (H:) and public (P:) drive as well as to network printers.


Linux Servers are Intel-based Pentiums (100) with 64 MB RAM, (2) 1 GB SCSI drives and a 2 GB DAT tape drive.


Printers are all HP LaserJets connected with an internal Jet Direct Card (Ethernet).


Network includes Category 5 cable, with a Fiber Optic backbone, T1 line to Public Services, and 1544 Kbps Frame Relay to the internet, 3COM hubs, patch panels and switch, Prelude and ADC DSU/CSU’s, and a Cisco Router.


STAFF: [consists of a manager, 2 systems analyst, and a technician]


Bob Shingledecker, Information Systems Manager,

Wrote early machine code and assembly code programs.

June 1984 hired as Senior Programmer Analyst.

January 1990 promoted to manager.

Uses the internet regularly to research solutions for City’s IS needs and future developments.


Pyng Chang and Charles Kalil, Senior Systems Analysts,

Have Pick backgrounds.

They have gradually moved into the UNIX and PC environment since the inception.

Involved with all aspects of UNIX network administration.

Writing GUI interface to Pick routines with the use of HTML, CGI, and Perl.

Currently developing Java solution.


Victor Chang, Information Systems Technician,

Supports PC Clients needs.

Installs and supports software (Windows, MS Office, Netscape...)

Troubleshoots and fixes hardware problems.