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Content archived on 2024-04-15

An Integrated Network Architecture for Office Communications

Objective

The principal purpose of the INCA project was to define and design an integrated network architecture for office communications within the framework of current international standards, particularly Open Systems Interconnection (OSI). It was also intended to demonstrate aspects of the architecture with interworking implementations. The INCA architecture was intended to allow the interchange of many different representations of information (text, graphics, image, voice) over a wide variety of sub-networks, while presenting to the user a single integrated interface.
The principal purpose of the project was to define and design an integrated network architecture for office communications within the framework of current international standards, particularly open systems interconnection (OSI).

Although international standards are technically stable in many of the areas covered by integrated network architecture for office communications (INCA) there are other areas (such as directory services and network management) where they are only just reaching maturity. Even in cases where the base standards are stable, few functional profiles have been completely defined, and the concept of International Standardized Profiles (ISP) has only recently emerged. As a result, it was necessary for the INCA project to define the required profiles and, as the international standards emerge, migrate to the appropriate standard. A significant amount of effort was expended in feeding the results of the INCA project into various standards bodies and influencing international standards design. Network management was an area of particular interest to the INCA team. It is a vital requirement for any integrated network architecture but, as yet, the standards are still being developed. Contribution has been made to the development of these standards and some implementation work has been undertaken.
Although international standards are technically stable in many of the areas covered by INCA, there are other areas (such as directory services and network management) where they are only just reaching maturity. Even in cases where the base standards are stable, few functional profiles have been completely defined, and the concept of International Standardised Profiles (ISPs) has only recently emerged. As a result, it was necessary for the INCA project to define the required profiles and, as the international standards emerge, migrate to the appropriate standard. A significant amount of effort was expended in feeding the results of the INCA project into various standards bodies and influencing international standards design.
Network management was an area of particular interest to the INCA team. It is a vital requirement for any integrated network architecture but, as yet, the standards are still being developed. The INCA partners have contributed to the development of these standards and Modcomp and UCL have undertaken some implementation work.
Exploitation
The project's output is leading to considerable commercial exploitation, either as a direct result of the project or by feeding the results to other projects. Some of this exploitation has already taken place.
GEC's main area of interest has been in FDDI networks, and a prototype FDDI station has been developed, incorporating station management software for use in a digital switching system. It is expected that this work will be incorporated into real projects within the next year. On a rather longer timescale, the work on network management is likely to be included in telecommunications systems.
The work in INCA on the LAN controller has been taken as the reference for most of Olivetti's developments for both the PC and the new LSX minicomputer product lines. In the case of the latter, the INCA work on a SCSI board provided valuable experience, although the actual SCSI board developed did not become a product. The INCA work on protocol architectures and network management has been used as the foundation for Olivetti network products.
In the case of Nixdorf (now SNI), the prototype of the high-resolution display developed within INCA has been further developed to become a commercial product (as part of SNI's Professional Workstation). A further (20") display is under development. The early work on the Standard Document Editor has led to a module of the PWS-X workstation. Later work (following the transition to ODA) has been used as input to the PODA projects (numbers 1024, 2374 and 5320).
The Virtual Automated Processor (VAP) developed by Modcomp is available within the AEG group on proprietary hardware, but it can be modified to run in other environments such as Unix. Modcomp intend to market the Unix version initially in Europe but laterworldwide. Various other tools developed under INCA (such as the Ethernet monitor) are also likely to become commercially available.
University College London has exploited the results of INCA in a somewhat different manner. Firstly, the results of the project are fed into teaching and into the wider research community. Secondly, there has been direct commercial exploitation by means of agreements between UCL and commercial organisations. Thirdly, the work is being used in further collaborative projects (such as the PODA projects mentioned above and project 2404, PROOF).

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GEC-Marconi Materials Technology Ltd
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