March 24, 1997 10:00 AM ET

A taste of the Real World
CA's Unicenter TNG uses virtual reality to give higher-ups a clear picture of their enterprise systems
By Aileen Crowley

  When Don Resh flipped the switch on Computer Associates International Inc.'s Unicenter TNG in January, he expected to have at his fingertips the most advanced network management system around. What he didn't expect was the upgrade's natural ability to help sell management on new computing expenditures.

The new scheduling, security and backup features in Unicenter TNG (The Next Generation) help Resh administer his 2,000-node network of Digital Equipment Corp. AlphaServers and Windows NT workstations. But the software's virtual reality navigation system is proving to be the most useful--both for higher-ups and the company's LAN support team.

"The interface does seem a bit strange at first, but once you get used to it, it's not a problem at all," said Resh, senior vice president and CIO of Retired Persons Services Inc., the largest nonprofit mail-service pharmacy in the United States, based in Alexandria, Va.

The Real World interface lets Resh easily demonstrate to nontechnical users or systems managers unfamiliar with a particular RPS facility exactly where all the systems and applications are physically located and how everything is interrelated. Users get a global view of their WAN, even if it is spread out coast to coast, and they also can drill down on any location to take a virtual walk through a building.

If there is a network bottleneck within a certain location, Unicenter TNG flags the area with a colored ball so the LAN administrator can get a closer look. That way, administrators can get right to work diagnosing or even fixing the problem from hundreds of miles away.

That kind of bird's-eye view was a critical sales tool for Resh in a recent budget meeting with RPS' chief financial officer. Resh was having trouble explaining why the company needed to dole out close to $100,000 for additional CPU capacity for one of its AlphaServer 8400s. Instead of a panicky presentation, Resh used The Real World interface to walk the CFO through the network topology, spotlighting system bottlenecks and their impact on the company's ability to fulfill prescriptions.

"It was as easy as that: I showed him the problem, and he signed the check," said Resh.

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