ALCA — automated local area networks configuration aid


Solving the customer’s LAN/WAN interconnect problem is difficult because of the need to explore many possible configurations (e.g. bridging/routing, packet/channels) and then to choose the best configuration using economic, performance and other criteria. The rapid introduction of new standards, protocols and products to the networking field brings additional complications to the solution and can cause confusion when configuring a network. ALCA is intended to generate all feasible LAN/WAN configuration possibilities automatically and to pick the most appropriate solution to solve the customer’s problem, while specifically addressing open systems interconnection (OSI) standards. Matching communications protocols while searching all possible configurations is notoriously slow even on a computer. We show how the search speed can be significantly improved by using expert system knowledge compilation, a computer-aided software engineering (CASE) technique. ALCA is based on a centrally updated knowledge base of various local area networking products and their interconnect possibilities. ALCA also allows querying to find out protocol interfaces supported by a particular product/service. Finally, it includes a graphic user interface and context-sensitive menus to reduce user information load. ALCA is intended to be used by the field personnel involved in pre-sales support, by the data communication product managers, and as an educational tool for novice communication product managers.