Employment and Training Administration
Washington, D. C. 20210






June 30, 1995




June 30, 1996











Unemployment Insurance Service (UIS)




Future Changes to the Sun Computer Systems Supporting the State Employment Security Agencies' (SESAs) Unemployment Insurance (UI) Applications

  1. Purpose. To announce: a) the upcoming implementation of networks designed to support a graphical user interface (GUI) environment and X Windows applications running on the SESAs' Sun Microsystems SPARCstation computers; and b) UI SPARCstation computer system upgrades.

  2. References. UIPL 26-94, New Policy Regarding National Office Acquisition of Terminals/Workstations Needed to Access the UI Computer Systems.

  3. Background. A current industry trend is to provide a GUI work environment on all desktop computers or workstations. This GUI environment provides "ease of use" features, such as multiple work screens/windows allowing users to run and display more than one application at a time and the use of a mouse to "point and click" on desired software options. A mouse may also be used to "drag and drop" data or objects from one place to another on a screen or to move data or objects from one screen to another. On the Sun SPARCstation computers this GUI environment is created by X Windows applications.

    As the UIS follows the industry trend and moves to a GUI based computing environment on the new Sun computers, the existing terminal servers (originally installed with the Artecon computers in 1989) cannot provide the data transfer rates necessary to support this new environment. The X Windows applications currently being developed for the Sun computers are data intensive and require much faster throughput between the host computer and the display devices in order to provide end-users with acceptable response times. Also, the VT-compatible terminals are not capable of displaying multiple screens and will not support a mouse device. New hardware and software components must be integrated into the existing computer systems in order to support this new environment.

    A second industry trend is to build local area networks (LANs) to share a central server and database, and other system devices such as printers or scanners. All of these networks require component identification for traffic routing and for security access purposes. The ethernet networks that most SESAs will build to support the UI computer systems require an Internet Protocol (IP) address for every attached device. If this network is connected to other Agency LAN s or has communications capabilities with-other computers (such as the National Office UNIX network), these other computer systems are also identified by IP addresses. IP addresses are also used as routing identifiers on the Internet, allowing electronic mail distribution or file transfers between computer systems.

    The National Office is currently converting its UI-developed software into X Windows applications. In order to fully support this environment, and to provide for potential Internet connectivity and integration of the UI computer systems into Agency LANs, the following items must be considered: X-emulation software for PCs, ethernet hubs for system connectivity, an IP addressing schema for each SESA, and potential connectivity to Agency LANs.

  4. X-Emulation for PCs. SESAs' VT-compatible terminals must be replaced because they cannot display X Windows applications or support a mouse device. In May of 1994, $854,000 was distributed among SESAs to help them replace their VT terminals with either PCs or X-Terminals to support future UI applications. To further this support, the National Office will distribute copies of Hummingbird's eXceed (the name of a software product) to all SESAs, providing the X-emulation necessary for PCs to run the X Windows applications on the SPARCstation computers. The National Office Hotline staff have contacted all SESAs to determine their requirements for this package, and the number of copies allocated to each SESA will vary based on the number requested, the number of UI positions funded, and the total number of licenses available for SESA distribution.

    In addition to the X-emulation package, a file transfer protocol is required to connect PCs to the SPARCstation computers. The SESA UI SPARCstation computer systems require that the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, referred to as TCP/IP, be loaded on all access devices that will be connected to the SPARCstation computers. TCP/IP is the oldest and most prevalent networking standard used by UNIX-based systems, and has been adopted as a UIS standard for networking UI system components and for internetworking computer systems. OnNet's TCP/IP package will be shipped to all SESAs along with the copies of eXceed software, and both packages will need to be loaded on all PCs requiring access to the SPARCstation computers. These two products will provide PC support for accessing SPARCstation computers either directly (via hub connectivity) or remotely (via modem dial-up).

    The first copies of eXceed and OnNet's TCP/IP package were shipped to SESAs in June, 1995, along with comprehensive installation and execution instructions for both packages. By the end of calendar year 1995, the UIS plans for all SESAs to have enough copies of eXceed and OnNet to be able to integrate all of their UI users' PCs into the UI computer systems. The State System Administrators (SSAs) will be responsible for loading the software on UI users' PCs-and--they will be the only point of contact with access to the National Office Hotline for technical support on these packages. If end users contact the Hotline directly, they will be referred back to their respective SSAs.

    Please note that there are strict licensing requirements for use of these packages (i.e., one package per computer), and that individual SESAs will be legally responsible for controlling the distribution of these products, once shipment has been received.

  5. Ethernet Hubs. The National Office has ordered Maxtech Model HX-16, 16-Port, l0Base-T, smart ethernet hubs to replace the terminal servers in the current UI computer systems. These hubs will provide a direct connection to the SPARCstation computers. In order to connect PCs to the hubs, the PCs must have an ethernet card installed. A representative from every SESA has attended training at the Minnesota Training Center during which all participants installed an ethernet card into a slot on a PC, so this process should be familiar.

    A 10Base-T twisted pair cable with RJ-45 jacks is required to connect a PC to a hub, with the SESAs responsible for acquiring the necessary cables. The cable plugs into the ethernet card and then into any one of the 16 ports on the hub. The hubs will be delivered along with copies of eXceed and OnNet and accompanying documentation and installation instructions in phased shipments, beginning in June, 1995. Most SESAs will receive their shipment two weeks prior to the start of their scheduled network training class, offered by the Minnesota Training Center. The SSAs will be responsible for connecting PCs to the hubs and the hubs to the SPARCstation computers. National Office Hotline assistance will be available on an as needed basis only after the network training session has been attended.

    There are several SESAs that now have all UI PCs connected to a token ring LAN and do not wish to use the hub configuration. These SESAs are responsible for providing connectivity (to include all hardware and software components and the costs of installation) between the SPARCstation computer and the Agency LAN. IP addresses and the TCP/IP protocol are requirements for this connectivity.

  6. IP Addressing Schema. All of the SPARCstation computers require a host name and an IP address as system identifiers. For those SESAs that choose to implement an ethernet LAN using hubs, every attached device (PCs, X-terminals, or printers) also requires an IP address. The National Office applied for and received Class C net numbers (consisting of 255 assignable IP addresses) from InterNIC Registration Services for all SESAs. Each SESA may choose to use the Class C assigned numbers when configuring its SPARCstation computer and PCs, or they may use State Agency provided numbers--if the Network System Manager plans to incorporate the UI computer into a larger Agency network.

    As the eXceed and OnNet software packages are installed on SESA PCs, the installation program requires entering an IP address for the PC and the IP address assigned to the SPARCstation computer. This necessitates developing a schema for distribution and assignment of numbers to the devices attached to the SESA UI LAN and to the SPARCstation machine. The National Office Hotline staff contacted SESAs during April and May of 1995, to receive verification of each SESA's IP addressing assignments.

    The National Office maintains a Wide Area Network (WAN) comprised of all SESAs' SPARCstation systems and the National Office's computers. Each computer within this WAN has the IP addresses stored for all other computers, enabling machines to send e-mail and transfer files to other computer systems. Because this impacts the National Office's ability to perform data pick-ups and distribute new software releases, it has been decided that the National Office will be responsible for updating and maintaining all system network files on all WAN computers. As IP addresses are provided to the National Office staff, they will enter the numbers and device names into the appropriate system files. As new devices need to be added to the SESA UI systems, the SSAs should contact the National Office Hotline, and Hotline staff will update the necessary files.

  7. Connecting to Agency LANs. Many SESAs already support PC-based LANs and would like to connect the UI SPARCstation computer to these systems. The National Office will work with the SESAs' SSAs to correctly configure the SPARCstation's system files required to-support this connectivity. Additional hardware or software components may also be necessary for inter-connectivity. For example, a SESA may need to add a network card--either to the SPARC computer or to its LAN-based server in order to connect systems, or additional software may be required to support non-compatible data communications protocols, or extra cabling may be required to physically connect two systems. All costs associated with the purchase or installation of any components required for inter-system connectivity must be borne by the individual SESA.

    The National Office reserves the right to require that a SESA physically disconnect the SPARCstation computer from all outside networks in order to perform on-site troubleshooting or if connectivity appears to negatively impact the UI system.

  8. New Menuing System. A new menuing system to support the GUI-based environment will be shipped electronically and automatically installed on the UI SPARCstation computers during the deployment of the first module of the Revenue Quality Control (RQC) application. RQC will be beta tested in ten (10) SESAs beginning in June of this year. National distribution of the software is anticipated for July, 1995.

    The new menu system includes an initial screen that prompts the user to first identify the type of terminal being used and then to select a menu environment. Users can still run the "old" or existing character-based menus or choose to run "new" X Windows-based menus. Users may also continue to execute "old" applications (character-based) from the new X Window menus. As UI applications are converted to X Windows, the character-based applications will be replaced with the X Windows versions. Benefits Quality Control (BQC) anticipates releasing an X Windows version of their application sometime in July or August of 1995. UI Required Reports (UIRR) is expected to release their X Windows application in the spring of 1996 and the Performance Measurement Review (PMR) system is also targeted for release to the SPARCstation computers during this timeframe.

    After UIRR's new product is released, the character-based menu system and all character-based applications will be removed from the UI SPARCstation computers. At that time the computers will only be accessible from X-terminals or PCs running X-emulation software (such as eXceed). SESAs are responsible for providing the replacement terminals or PCs necessary to support the RQC, BQC, UIRR, and PMR applications.

    Although the X Windows user environment provides flexibility by allowing users to modify their own windows displays to reflect individual preferences, the National Office will provide a standard windows interface, for the primary purpose of displaying selected UI menu options. If users choose to individually modify their environment files, whenever a menu modification to the UI Main Menu system occurs, the users will have to over-write their modified files--thus resetting all of their preferred parameters. This could become a very frustrating and time-consuming process, as menu changes are a frequent occurrence. It will also make support more difficult for the Hotline staff to provide if application screens look different from one user to the next. For these reasons the National Office recommends that all user environment files default to the systems' global files and that these files not be modified.

  9. Network Training Classes offered by the Minnesota Training Center. The Training Center is offering a series of networking classes targeted towards State-specific LAN interconnectivity, with the first class to be held in July, 1995. These classes will address issues relating to connectivity between the Sun SPARCstation computer systems and the following Agency LANs: 1) Novell Ethernet LANs, 2) Novell Token-Ring LANs, and 3) other types of LANs. There will also be a class offered for those SESAs that will not be connecting to Agency LANs, with the focus on setting up an Ethernet-based LAN for the SPARCstation computers, incorporating PCs, X-Terminals, HP Laser Printers (using JetDirect cards), and ethernet hubs.

    Each SESA may send one attendee to one of the training classes at no cost. The last class offered will be open to participants unable to attend previous classes plus a limited number of additional participants (SESA paid) that SESAs may want to send.

  10. Upgrades to UI Computer Systems. There are a number of areas in which the SESAs' UI Computer Systems will be upgraded. These include the following:

    1. Solaris 2.4--Operating System Upgrade. The SPARC computers run Sun's Solaris Operating System (OS), based on AT&T's SVR4 UNIX. There is currently a new maintenance release of the Sun OS, incorporating hundreds of patches from the 2.3 release. The latest release, Solaris 2.4, will improve system support from the National Office by incorporating fixes to many important system programs and by improving hardware and software integration through enhanced and refined system utilities.

      Solaris 2.4 is already running on the National Office computers and most SESAs have received copies of the Compact Disk (CD) required to load the new OS. The remaining SESAs (nineteen of them) should receive their CDs in June, 1995. Due to the large size of the operating system, it is not possible to automatically download the software via dial-up electronic transmission. The SSAs that are currently responsible for maintaining the UI SPARCstation computers will need to assist during the upgrade process by loading the CD and following instructions provided by the National Office for this installation.

      Pre- and post-installation scripts are now being developed by National Office staff. These scripts will be shipped on bootable floppy diskettes along with written instructions for performing the upgrade. A full system tape backup will need to be run as part of the upgrade process.

      The National Office Hotline will offer assistance during the installation process; the Hotline will contact SSAs and coordinate the installations in order to ensure staff availability. The first upgrades should take place in July, 1995, with the remaining SESAs participating in a staggered timeframe--in anticipation of all SESA computers running Solaris 2.4 by the end of August, 1995.

    2. Informix Upgrade. Informix has released upgrades to all of their database products. Shortly after Solaris 2.4 is loaded on the SPARCstation machines, the Informix products will also be upgraded to the most current release levels. The new Informix products include the following releases:

      Standard Engine 7.l

      ISQL 6.0

      4GL Runtime 6.0

      These latest releases provide significant improvements in performance resulting in faster data retrievals, and also contain a number of bug fixes, which should improve programming capabilities for those data analysts that write their own retrieval programs. It is anticipated that the first SESA computers will be upgraded in July or August, 1995.

    3. SYSAdmin Upgrade--New Printer Module. The SysAdmin application, used by SSAs to perform routine administrative tasks on the UI S PARC systems, will incorporate the following printer enhancements under the Printer Management menu selection:

      Add a New Printer (Requires Printer Drivers) Change Configuration of Existing Printer Delete Existing Printer

      Under the "Add a New Printer" option, the first screen prompts the SSA for the printer make and model; for where the printer will be physically attached to the system; for a system printer name; and lastly for a location description. There is a corresponding program available for the end-users under the UI Main Menu that displays a list of all system connected printers and their locations, and the user may select a default printer or a printer to which a specific print job will be sent. These enhancements will be shipped electronically and automatically loaded onto the UI S PARC computers in June or early July, 1995.

    4. Other Printer Upgrades. PostScript is a powerful printer language used to produce desktop-publishing types of printouts. Many on-line Help Manuals require postscript printing capabilities for reproduction. To provide SESAs with PostScript functionality, PostScript cards for the Hewlett Packard (HP) 4Si laser printers have been purchased and will be shipped directly to SESAs in June or July, l995. At the same time the National Office will be shipping detailed installation instructions for plugging the cards into the printers. The SESAs will be responsible for performing this installation; however, Hotline technical assistance will be available.

      JetDirect cards may also be added to the HP 4Si laser printers in order to attach the printers to the ethernet hubs. SESAs have been asked (via e-mail to all SSAs) to let the Hotline know if they would like to add a card to their printers. JetDirect cards will be ordered and shipped to the requesting SESAs in July or August, 1995, along with installation instructions. Again, SESAs will be responsible for performing this installation with technical assistance available through the Hotline.

    5. Informix's HyperScript Tools Product. HyperScript Tools is a suite of graphical application development tools based on the Informix HyperScript Development Language. The tools consist of the HyperScript programming language, - Builder Modules, a Project Manager, a Debugger, Runtime, and special SQL for accessing data stored in Informix databases. HyperScript Tools has been ordered for all SESA UI SPARC computers and will allow State users to create their own graphical applications.

      Builder Modules automatically generate HyperScript code and are used to:

      Edit and Debug HyperScript Code

      Create Dialog Boxes Create Menus

      Create Document-Based Applications Build Worksheets Using Full-Featured Spreadsheet Create Interactive, On-Line Help

      The Project Manager toolset may be used to group and manage all files related to a specific application. From the project menu, developers may add or delete files, access Builder modules, select the debug option to execute a script statement by statement--displaying the appropriate HyperScript code if an error is encountered, or select the runtime option to execute a script or complete application.

      HyperScript Tools also includes Wingz--a spreadsheet application combining data calculation features with chart, graphic, and text manipulation capabilities.

      Each SESA will receive a three user license and a full set of documentation supporting the complete toolset. The National Office is creating a Quick Reference Guide for HyperScript Tools and anticipates a product release date in July or August of 1995.

  11. The Artecon 3/60 Computers. The Artecon 3/60 computers have exceeded the product lifespan for computer equipment. All National Office support for these computers ends as of July 1, 1995. From this date forward, Hotline staff will no longer open cases or provide technical assistance relating to any problems associated with the 3/60 computers.

  12. Action Required. SESA Administrators are requested to advise appropriate staff of the contents of this UIPL.

  13. Inquiries. Questions may be directed to David Wilson at (202) 219-8640 Ext. 15 or by Internet mail at wilsond@uis.doleta.gov.