Reviews of Recent Titles on Open Systems Subjects
By Stephan M. Chan
Building a Network: How to Specify, Design,
Procure, and Install a Corporate LAN by Peter D. Rhodes McGraw-Hill
237 pages, $40 ISBN# 0-07-052134-4
Systems Essentials by Divakara K. Udupa McGraw-Hill 575 pages, $50
Building a Network: How to Specify,
Design, Procure, and Install a Corporate LAN
This book is intended for readers who do not have a network or are unhappy
with their present one. The reader should have some technical knowledge
of the network currently running in the organization and be responsible
for modifying an existing network or installing a new network. Both the
computer professional who desires practical advice and direction and the
university-level student who needs a reference work will find it suitable,
but the core audience is managers charged with the installation of or upgrade
to a company's network.
It defines and spotlights four basic steps; following them allows one to
align business objectives with technological realities. These four sequential
steps are specify, design, install and test. There are feedback loops between
each stage, which enable newly found information to change the results of
a prior stage.
A separate chapter is devoted to each of the four steps. Additional chapters
are devoted to how to write a request for quotation (RFQ), how to analyze
RFQ responses from vendors, how to evaluate the installation and how to
manage the overall project. Also included is a chapter on contractual, legal
and insurance information.
Building a Network includes a significant amount of discussion regarding
the pros and cons of the different choices that are available at each stage.
For example, the chapter on design covers the capabilities and limitations
of copper media, fiber-optic media, radio and free-space light for the transmission
of data. Rhodes compares each of these in relation to such issues as electrical
noise, interference, weight, corrosion, flexibility, strength, signal loss,
bandwidth, building codes and installation problems. Each feature is discussed
in clear terms, easily understandable to a person with a modest technical
Case Studies Highlight Pitfalls
Rhodes includes many case studies to help illustrate the pitfalls to avoid.
For example, the chapter on installation includes 18 case studies, among
which is a study of a retail grocery store updating its system to include
scanners with debit card readers to enable payment via electronic funds
transfer. Because the store had to stay open during the day, all work had
to be done between midnight and seven in the morning. This resulted in higher
labor costs, along with shoplifting problems caused by lack of supervision.
It was suggested that these higher labor costs be included in the budget
and that security guards or other supervision be included in the plans.
Rhodes includes three appendices. The first is an organizational description
of a fictitious company. It includes sample forms for equipment distribution,
telecommunications frequency and other details, all of which guide the reader
in collecting the right information to help in the specification and design
phases. Also included is a sample request for proposal for a network specification,
design and installation project, along with a sample contract for network
Other topics that are covered include evaluating and choosing technology;
negotiating with vendors and assessing specifications; overall project management;
budgeting; reporting; network management systems; building code compliance;
and equipment inspection, test and evaluation.
Rhodes recommends that the reader acquire certain tools. The most important
one is a plan of action, which can be developed with information from the
book. This is in addition to the obvious equipment: a computer with a spreadsheet
or database program, a word processor and a graphics or computer-aided design
package and a laser or inkjet printer. Recommended (but not mandatory) are
an e-size plotter, a fax machine, a scanner and a modem.
Each chapter of Building a Network starts with a list of topics to
be covered and ends with a summary of them. Each chapter has 20 to 50 topics
and subtopics, whose headings are printed in large, bold type at the start
of each section and match the listing in the table of contents. This organization
makes it easy to find the answers to questions the reader might have. The
book is well-written, easy to understand and practical in its approach.
It should be mandatory reading for anyone who is considering installing
or upgrading a network. The amount of money that can be saved could be many
times the price of the book.
Network Management Systems Essentials
This book ups the ante over the previous one, technically speaking.
It covers most of the popular network protocols and is useful to readers
interested in understanding the different concepts, standards and architectures
in network management. It is written for professionals in network management,
LAN management and the computer industry. It is also useful as a textbook
for an advanced course on network management, which should be preceded by
a course in basic networking.
The book covers network management for OSI, TCP/IP, IEEE-based LANs and
IBM System Network Architecture (SNA) environments. The author also covers
advanced peer-to-peer networking (APPN) and IBM peer-to-peer networking.
Although network management is an application-layer technology (as defined
by the seven-layer Open Systems Interconnection [OSI] model), Udupa realizes
that the lower layers are also important and includes that material where
it is helpful.
Network Management Systems Essentials is divided into five major
sections consisting of 19 chapters and four appendices. The section on OSI
systems management starts by introducing important concepts, such as manager,
agent, system management functional areas (SMFAs), scoping, filtering, polymorphism,
allomorphism and other critical terms necessary to understand the theories
and explanations. It moves on to systems management support functions, such
as remote operations service elements (ROSE) and common management information
service elements (CMISE), as well as abstract and transfer syntax, such
as Abstract Syntax Notation 1 (ASN.1) and basic encoding rules (BER). Udupa
finishes this section by covering the structure of management information,
as described in the guidelines for the definition of managed objects (GDMO)
The section on Internet network management starts with a thorough exploration
of the TCP/IP suite. Udupa continues by covering the Simple Network Management
Protocol (SNMP), Management Information Base (MIB-II), Request for Comment
(RFC 1213), Remote Network Monitoring (RMON), RMON for Ethernet and Token
Ring, and numerous other protocols and standards. The IEEE LAN/MAN management
section introduces the differences between local-, metropolitan- and wide-area
networks (LANs, MANs and WANs), and their topologies, protocols, standards
and connectivity. Udupa discusses the architecture and limitations of IEEE
802.1B LAN/MAN management standards, among them the lack of network support
for routing, which limits 802.1B to a subnetwork.
The Peer SNA and systems management section includes coverage of APPN, advanced
program-to-program communications (APPC), Common Programming Interface-Communications
(CPI-C), Message Queuing Interface (MQI) and SNA management services. An
entire chapter is devoted to IBM's SystemView network management product,
its goals, objectives, levels, dimensions, infrastructure and object and
data models. The network management and issues section deals with configuration
management, fault management, performance management, systems management
functions and conformance, and network management issues and future trends.
Designed for Usability
Each chapter in Network Management Systems Essentials includes an
introduction, a summary and reference and further readings suggestions.
The book ends with four appendices, which include a discussion of the International
Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Telecommunications
Union (ITU), the standardization process for ISO, the Internet Activities
Board (IAB) and TCP/IP. Information on how to obtain standards publications
also is included.
Considering the nature of this subject matter, the included list of acronyms
is mandatory for making sense of the alphabet soup that makes up much of
this book. Also included are numerous exercise questions for each chapter,
suitable for an assignment to a class of students or to test the reader's
mastery of the topics presented.
It is a good thing that the book makes liberal use of tables, diagrams and
figures to illustrate the numerous protocols and relationships that are
presented. Because the topics covered are necessarily related to numerous
standards documents, the material presented can get quite heavy and be a
challenge to read. For example, section 11.4 deals with LAN layer standards
and refers to 11 separate IEEE LAN standards, ranging from Mac bridges and
logical link control to secure data exchange. It also references two IEEE
technical advisory groups on broadband LANs and fiber optics. A diagram
is included to show the interrelationship between the different standards
and the physical, medium access control and logical link control layers
of the OSI model.
Network Management Systems Essentials makes an excellent source for
those who require a thorough discussion of the numerous facets involved
in a modern, multivendor network management environment. It is also excellent
for the professional who has the motivation to learn the many new standards
that have come into existence since he or she last studied the field.
Stephan M. Chan is president of Uniprime Systems, a consulting
firm in Baltimore that specializes in systems design engineering with Unix.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
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