Systems Network Architecture (SNA) is IBM's proprietary networking architecture created in 1974. It is a complete protocol stack for interconnecting computers and their resources. SNA describes the protocol and is, in itself, not actually a program. The implementation of SNA takes the form of various communications packages, most notably Virtual telecommunications access method (VTAM) which is the mainframe package for SNA communications. SNA is still used extensively in banks and other financial transaction networks, as well as in many government agencies. While IBM is still providing support for SNA, one of the primary pieces of hardware, the 3745/3746 communications controller has been withdrawn from marketing by the IBM Corporation. However, there are an estimated 20,000 of these controllers installed and IBM continues to provide hardware maintenance service and micro code features to support users. A robust market of smaller companies continues to provide the 3745/3746, features, parts and service. VTAM is also supported by IBM, as is the IBM Network Control Program (NCP) required by the 3745/3746 controllers.
Objectives of SNA
IBM in the mid-1970s saw itself mainly as a hardware vendor and hence all its innovations in that period aimed to increase hardware sales. SNA's objective was to reduce the costs of operating large numbers of terminals and thus induce customers to develop or expand interactive terminal based-systems as opposed to batch systems. An expansion of interactive terminal based-systems would increase sales of terminals and more importantly of mainframe computers and peripherals - partly because of the simple increase in the volume of work done by the systems and partly because interactive processing requires more computing power per transaction than batch processing.
Hence SNA aimed to reduce the main non-computer costs and other difficulties in operating large networks using earlier communications protocols. The difficulties...
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