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DEC out of shadows with Internet role

Arman Danesh

IT'S amazing to see a company that has not done all that well in the PC market to recently take such a strong leading role on the Internet.

The most recent of Digital Equipment Corporation's (DEC) on-line ventures provides an example of how the Internet could not only make the world one large network, but actually make the world one large, multi-processor computer.

This computer could be one in which software for any platform could actually be run from any node by simply executing the software on a machine somewhere else on the Internet and using the Net to provide an access path into the remote machine.

What DEC has done to point towards this possibility is to allow Internet users to test the company's flagship Alpha-based machines with their own software programs without having direct, on-site access to an Alpha machine.

Using FTP, users can send their programs to one of four Alphas in the United States which DEC is making available for this service, and then run the software on the remote machine.

This provides a broad range of applications. Not only does it prevent DEC from having to provide and maintain Alpha machines at all their software developers' sites, it also allows companies without the resources to invest in Alpha boxes to develop code for the systems, to test it before sending it to market and never actually own an Alpha.

Likewise, users who are having difficulty running software on their own Alpha boxes can try it on another box to see if something is buggy in their own local configuration.

In addition to this basic access to a remote processor, some network providers, such as Unipalm in Britain, allow users to test run commercial software via the Internet before deciding to buy.

Basically, a user can download a time-limited copy of the software and get an access code to run the software until it self-destructs.

This is all well and fine, but it still a matter of having to manually move a program between systems and then start running it.

But, as bandwidth becomes wider and new communication protocols are developed, perhaps the day will come when a net-connected machine will become a transparent part of a larger machine.

Code for any platform could then be loaded into any machine and executed and the underlying protocols will determine if it can run locally and, if not, send it out to a public access machine with the right processor where the program can run.

When that day comes, then we will have the true open system: The World.Companies on the Internet who want to provide information about their services and promote their E-mail addresses and perhaps FTP site information often want to use the World Wide Web, but they may not have their own dedicated machine with a Web server on the Net.

That is where Cityscape Internet Services in the United Kingdom comes in. They provide a service, the Global On-Line News and Directory Services, which offers what amounts to indexed, searchable, free home pages on the Net for any organisation.

Using a forms-capable Web browser such as Mosaic, it is possible to set up a page at Cityscape with a description of an organisation, contact E-mail addresses and pointers to FTP sites or other local Web pages.

The Web pages can be searched by location, type of business or keyword through any forms-capable browser.