Cisco Unwraps Mainframe Communications Wares

Cisco Systems last week announced new and enhanced products for IBM shops that let users support more sure sessions and balance IP communication loads to the mainframe.

Cisco unveiled new features for its TN3270 Server and the availability of its latest ESCON Channel Port Adapter, the ECPA4. Both products give users access to IBM and IBM-compatible mainframes using Cisco 7200 and 7500 series IP routers. The products are designed to help users migrate from legacy IBM SNA nets to IP nets based on Cisco routers. Cisco owns more than 80% of the SNA/IP internetworking market.

The new TN3270 Server features improved security for 3270 sessions running over IP and adds support for more 3270 protocol functions, Cisco says. TN3270 Server is a software program that can be used to connect a desktop computer to a mainframe and emulate a 3270 mainframe terminal session over an IP network.

The server runs on every Cisco Channel Port Adapter (CPA) for the Cisco 7200 series and every Channel Interface Processor (CIP) for the 7500 series platforms.

The TN3270 features include one called logical unit naming in a load-balanced and redundant configuration. This feature lets the TN3270 Server pass a logical unit name to the Virtual Telecommunications Access Method program on a mainframe and ask VTAM to create a logical unit with that name.

This feature lets customers load balance between TN3270 sessions in the server. Formerly, a TN3270 Server user who required a specific logical unit name had to be directed to a specific TN3270 Server with a predefined relationship with that name.

Also new is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. This feature is designed to improve security during 3270 sessions by adding SSL encryption between TN3270 Servers and clients. SSL is the de facto standard for protecting data transmitted over TCP/IP networks.

The TN3270 Server also supports a feature called inverse nailing of logical unit names using Domain Name System (DNS) lookup. This lets customers use DNS names instead of IP addresses when creating and assigning logical unit names.

This feature is useful in environments where IP addresses change frequently, such as those that use the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, to assign IP addresses to users. The idea is to help users find resources faster.

The new ECPA4, meanwhile, runs on the Cisco 7200 series router. It offers 150% increase in processing capability and more than 300% increase in memory over previous ECPA models.

These enhancements result in support of up to 8,000 Logical Link Control 2 sessions, or 5,000 sessions more than the previous version. ECPA4 can also support up to 30,000 logical unit sessions, an increase of 25,000 sessions from the previous version, Cisco says.

The new TN3270 Server features will ship before year-end on CPA and CIP cards running the latest version of Cisco IOS, 12.1 (5) T or later. SSL support on the TN3270 Server requires an additional licensing fee per server. The ECPA4 is available now and costs US$18,000.

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