Representatives from Franz Inc. attended the Lisp User Group Meeting held in conjunction with OOP-Europe in Germany in February 1997. The meeting gave Common Lisp users an opportunity to network and hear presentations on Lisp-related topics by presenters from Europe and the United States. During the LUGM, BT Labs demonstrated the company's advanced application for designing data networks, SPEED (Solutions Pricing and End to End Design), built with Allegro CL.
BT Labs designs, installs and maintains some of the largest internetworks in the world. "With the demand for new networks increasing rapidly and the proliferation of new products and services, the conventional approach of increasing manpower resourcing to meet the demand just doesn't work anymore," says Derham Scott, SPEED Development Manager. "We have to work smarter, not harder." As a solution to this need, BT Labs developed SPEED.
SPEED consists of two tools. Designer is a model-based expert system that understands concepts such as geographic locations/distances (GIS), applications, traffic and bandwidth requirements and available services (ISDN, SMDS, Frame Relay and Private Circuits). BT Lab's sales force uses Designer to analyze and refine "what-if" scenarios on a laptop PC and then produce on-the-spot pricing. Without Designer, the same process would take several weeks to accomplish back at base.
The second tool in the SPEED suite is Configurator. Configurator is a graphical drawing application with a tightly coupled "production rule system" capable of analyzing network components and their connectivity. Based on the network's logical/physical connectivity, and bandwidth and performance requirements, the rules recommend a suitable CISCO router along with all the configuration information, cards, cables, memory and software. The configuration rules use an English Language like syntax so that non-programmers can easily maintain them.
"We have rolled out SPEED to over 100 of our sales people running on Laptop PCs," says Rob Blackwell, Senior Developer, BT Labs. "We have used SPEED on these PCs to design a number of business critical internetworks for some of our largest customers." BT Labs built both Designer and Configurator with Allegro CL for Windows while the user interface was developed in Common Graphics.
"Allegro CL for Windows is one of the most advanced programming environments available for the PC," Comments Blackwell, "and gives us about an order of magnitude productivity improvement over traditional languages like C++." Scott agrees: "We could not have developed these advanced applications without a real high-level language such as Lisp. The Franz environment has proved itself robust in taking a RAD project through to an industrial strength application."
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