Invitation to Network Providers
Wed Mar 9 16:40:05 UTC 1994
This may be of interest to some of the folks on this
list. I received the copy of this message from Frode
Greisen. If you are interested in pursuing this,
please contact Bill Baker directly. If not just
toss it and move on.
Date: Sat, 5 Feb 94 11:51:02 PST
From: Bill Baker <bbaker at calsoft.com>
To: frode.greisen at uni-c.dk
Subject: Network Providers Proposal
European Backbone Network
Let me introduce myself. My name is Bill Baker and I'm president of
California Software. For the last year, our company has been developing a
Microsoft Windows based InterNet product. Over the course of developing
this product several issues concerning Network Providers have arisen.
Enclosed is a proposal that I would like to discuss with you or whomever
in you organization you feel would be appropriate. It is California
Software's desire to create a relationship with a number of network
providers and work toward an industry standard that might ease the
difficulties related to configuring dial up SLIP or PPP connection into
We are in full development at this time on a comprehensive software
program that we hope will provide the most up to date multi-media
communication products as well as being truly "plug and play". I look
forward to discussing this further with you and your staff.
You may contact me directly by phone or electronically at
bbaker at calsoft.com
Bill Baker, President
California Software, Inc.
2121 East Pacific Coast Hwy. Suite 120C
Corona del Mar, California 92625
A Solution for Network Providers
Today there are many companies working on PC products for Internet
connectivity. These same products are also being developed for a
variety of other platforms, by both network providers and by
independent software vendors (ISVs).
Various approaches are being taken in developing these products. At
one end of the spectrum, legacy networks like CompuServe and AOL are
basing their Internet services on mainframe-based application relays
which will give existing users access to conventional Internet
services like Archie and Gopher. Internet-centric network providers
and ISVs such as NetManage, Spry, and California Software, are
working on software that provides "full membership" in the Internet
by providing the end user with a TCP/IP link for unlimited access to
a variety of services and protocols. We believe that in the long
run, this "full membership" Internet access will prevail to become
the dominant method for Internet access.
Today there are two major technical barriers to "full membership"
Internet connection. First is the lack of robustness of the SLIP
protocol. PPP is much improved. Second is the extraordinary
difficulty, for the typical user, of configuring and bringing up
either a SLIP or PPP connection. The question is, can PC software be
designed which will effortlessly connect a user to any network
provider and provide full Internet connectivity without the personal
involvement of the network provider's support staff?
We have observed users attempting to bring up SLIP and PPP
connections with off-the-shelf networking products and have concluded
that using current methods such connections will almost always fail
on the first attempt. This usually results in support calls to the
network provider, the software vendor, or both. If
automatic-configuring software existed the technical support for both
the network provider as well as the creator of the software would be
drastically reduced. There is no argument that the majority of all
technical support efforts which are a direct expense to either the
software developer or network provider occur in the first few hours
With this in mind California Software Inc. (CSI) is building into
its product automatic configuration code to deal with this issue.
With the cooperative effort of both the network provider and software
suppliers like CSI, we believe significant savings can be realized.
Technical support workloads will be reduced, but more importantly
both companies will have satisfied customers and will be looked at as
industry leaders with the most advanced products that are useful for
users at every level.
There are two significant stumbling blocks to configuring and
managing a SLIP/PPP connection. When a user subscribes to a
provider's emulator service, he has only three parameters to manage:
the POP telephone number, his User ID, and his Password.
The user attempting to bring up a SLIP/PPP connection must manage
these three parameters plus at least ten others including Internet
addresses for himself, a gateway, an SMTP server, domain name
servers, and NNTP servers. Depending on the service, he may also
have additional User ID's, passwords, and telephone numbers to cope
with. Making matters worse, the establishment of a SLIP/PPP
connection requires a negotiated dialog between the user's PC and the
service provider's POP controller. This is not standardized and
varies from provider to provider. A connection script that works
must be tailored to the specific provider.
Because of this complexity, the probability of a SLIP/PPP connection
working the first time approaches zero. We have never seen such a
connection work on its initial attempt. This is guaranteed to be a
trying experience for the user and a very expensive customer support
challenge for the network provider.
California Software's new product line will incorporate several
facilities specifically for simplifying TCP/IP and SLIP/PPP
configuration and management. This section describes these.
1. Central Network Data Repository In many competitive products
we find that a particular network parameter may appear many times in
different places. Typically each network sub-application has a
configuration panel in which the user is required to enter his IP
address, a target IP address such as the service's SMTP server, and
the ever mysterious "subnet mask". CSI's program will have only one
place in which this information is stored for all of its
sub-applications in a local SLIP.INI file.
2. Parsable SLIP/PPP Parameter List When a user orders a
SLIP or PPP connection from a network provider today, he receives a
list of 10 to 15 parameters needed for the connection from the
provider's network operations center (NOC). This can be in the form
of a telephone call, or more typically, embedded in a
computer-generated e-mail letter sent to the user's emulator account.
The user must understand the meaning of the parameters, find out
where they need to be put, and accurately hand copy the numeric IP
addresses and other items into his network software. He must obtain
all this information typically using a very unfriendly UNIX mail
We intend to work with Internet network providers to
encourage them to adopt an easily parsed standard SLIP.INI document.
After a customer orders a SLIP or PPP connection the SLIP.INI
document can be placed in the root of his emulator account (this
avoids sending user ID's and passwords via e-mail). Our program's
automatic configuration process will extract information from the
SLIP.INI document to use in configuring the SLIP/PPP connection
without user intervention. A copy of a proposed format for the
service provider's SLIP.INI file is included as an attachment to this
document. Putting the SLIP/PPP access parameters into the proposed
SLIP.INI format is a small task (a few hours) for the majority of
network providers, who already computer-generate e-mail containing
this same information in a form letter.
We will supply a parsing macro to extract information from
the proposed SLIP.INI format. For those network providers who are not
willing to adopt this format we will write parsers to extract
configuration information from their e-mail SLIP/PPP letters, but
this procedure is open to risk because our automated configuration
procedure may fail if a network provider changes the format of its
3. Automatic Configuration Once the network parameters are
obtained by reading a SLIP.INI document, parsing an e-mail message,
or entered by hand into a single dialog box, CSI's software will
automatically configure the system. This configuration process
includes updating the user's local SLIP.INI file with the new network
parameters and propagating parameters to the program's
sub-applications as needed.
The software program will also obtain, or alternatively ask
for, the name of the network provider and/or the brand of the
communications server used at the network provider's POP (typically
CISCO, Livingston, Emulex, or other hardware). This will enable
CSI's program to construct the brief but critical connect-time
SLIP/PPP negotiation macro used for initializing the network
connection and in some cases, for obtaining the user's dynamic IP
address assigned at connect time by some network providers.
4. 911 Log CSI's products incorporate a 911 log which is
a running log of warning and error messages which are produced by the
program, and which can be used for remote diagnosis purposes. The log
is a repository for all of the program's error messages. It is
designed as a LIFO stack that can be interrogated remotely by
5. Network Provider Log in Selection Network providers
that are willing to participate with CSI and adhere to a workable
standard will be integrated into the automatic software setup
process. Customers who do not currently have a network provider or
who need to choose a provider will be given at installation time the
opportunity to choose service from the CSI's list of "cooperating"
providers. This process will probably work from a zip code search,
which will make available on screen those providers that have point
of presence within local calling distance of the customer.
We believe that by incorporating these techniques we will be able to
significantly increase the chances the user will be able to
establish a SLIP/PPP connection without the need for expensive,
professional assistance. The reduction of support costs to the
network provider supplies the necessary quid quo pro for adopting the
standard SLIP.INI format, as well as for an open standard to be used
by other network software vendors.
Following is an example of a proposed format and contents for a
service provider's SLIP.INI document.
Network Providers' SLIP.INI Format Example
NOCMail=noc at netcom.com
CSMail=support at netcom.com
CSMail=support at calsoft.com
More information about the NANOG