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The Many Faces of Networking Before the great LAN explosion networking for the most part addressed the connection of distributed devices to a central location Although some pioneering companies such as Digital Equipment offered LAN technology in these early days the bulk of the market was accustomed to a centralized computing environment In this centralized approach the primary concern was to find the most practical and economical way to connect terminals printers and other data collectionreception devices to the primary location When connectivity was required between systems the link was approached typically as a special-case point-to-point operation rather than part of a peer-oriented distributed processing network However as requests mounted to link computer systems over wide areas multiple point-to-point operations became very cost ineffective and the door opened to such alternative wide-area connections as X25 and ISDN Wide-area technologies have continued to evolve and now include Frame Relay Asynchronous Transfer Mode ATM and Switched Multimegabit Data Service SMDS All things considered this system-to-system connectivity hardly concerned the end user--after all this was the job of the communications analyst But when the LAN wave finally reached the PC on the end users desk that user suddenly encountered and became concerned about connectivity issues At first it was just local LAN connectivity and terminal emulation Then as networks grew and costs increased products such as gateways bridges and routers snaked their way into the LAN Today the end user has an unprecedented amount of power at his or her disposal Consolidated enterprise-wide data is no longer in the hands of a few technical elite off-the-shelf desktop software now gives the end user the ability to access data anywhere in the enterprise--whether it is on the PC server minicomputer or mainframe This progression of connectivity changed the role of the LAN Whereas the LAN began as a local computing environment usually an island unto itself it grew into an area of computing normally linked to other computing areas
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