In less than 15 minutes, Ed Beers was able to give his Macintosh and Windows-based users access to the same Windows NT servers located at the central office of the Marion County, FL, school district. As Macs had been one of the computer interfaces in the district for years, Beers spared many teachers from taking the time to learn Windows by solving the problem internally.
Beers, Systems Operations Specialist, has had help controlling the wide area network (WAN) of the 47 school, 38,500 student district in a two-thirds PC, one-third Mac environment by using Group Logic's ExtremeZ-IP product on two servers. His immediate need for ExtremeZ-IP was to give his Mac users the ability to change their passwords over the newly incorporated WAN.
ExtremeZ-IP's plug-in architecture enables Mac machines to talk TCP/IP, according to Reid Lewis, President of Arlington, VA-based Group Logic, where normally, Macs talk a non-TCP/IP protocol called AppleTalk. The server "looks at the Windows disk and finds the info the Mac client is looking for and translates it into an appropriate way to send to the Mac," he explained. "In the end, we're talking to Windows on one side and Mac on the other."
For example, Beers said allowing Mac users to change their usernames and passwords also comes in handy when teachers are transferred from one school to another. In that event and with the incorporation of ExtremeZ-IP, those teachers do not have to be retrained.
So, when the school system was brought online in 1999, and there was a "massive rollout" of newly web-enabled Macs and PCs, all the teachers were immediately able to change their passwords with no additional training. The teachers had been using their computers since the early 90's, Beers said, and that is the interface they are familiar with.
Thus, the necessity to having Beers' Macs and PCs on one platform is to keep the entire computing environment simple, he said. "We wanted to keep an even platform for everybody, to simplify and give both platforms the same feel and touch."
On the support side, Beers said he has not had any problems getting the help he needs. "They never point fingers at the other operating systems' configurations," he said. As one of Beers' main priorities is to minimize downtown, the helpful and, what Beers called "unusual," support staff is a plus. Even the sales representatives know what they're talking about, he said, and often suggest a course of action that solves his problem.
Overall, Beers said, the reliability of the product is a big benefit. He said it's very easy to install and that, in fact, "anyone can install it." Beers said he hasn't hit a serious snag for two years and has saved the school system gobs of money for not having to switch to an all Windows-based desktop platform.
Group Logic's customer base includes other school systems, large institutions like universities or big corporations and even newspapers and scientists -- often large companies with small departments doing graphic design. Lewis stressed that previously Macs could not be a part of a network like that because they did not use TCP/IP, but that now, "with Extreme-Z-IP, Macs can co exist there and no longer are the odd duck."
ExtremeZ-IP can also be used for printer sharing using the same TCP/IP protocol, Lewis said, and Group Logic's goal was to make printing in a mixed network as simple as Apple made it for regular Mac printing. "We said, 'Gosh, that's so easy, we have to make Extreme-Z-IP printing that easy as well.'"
The "Choose IP Printer" utility is accessible from a pull-down Apple menu. Users select the printer they want and are set to go, Lewis said. An added benefit is that administrators get a detailed log of who printed what, where previously they weren't able to.
What could really be the beauty of the creation of ExtremeZ-IP, which was first shipped in July of 1999, is that Group Logic itself was suffering from a mixed environment and originally designed the product for its own usage. Lewis said his company, comprised of 55 employees, tested the product for a significant amount of time before releasing it to the public, and, according to Lewis, ExtremeZ-IP is "continuing to evolve as we speak."
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