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PRESS 

REVIEW 


The following articles are reprinted solely as items of interest for the independent evaluation by members of 
ATSU. The opinions, statements of fact, and conclusions expressed herein are not those of the Association. 


Timesharing: 

A Business Of Specialties 


Timesharing firms provide 
users with many options for 
info processing and are even 
offering some software to use 
on in-house computers. 

by Neil D. Kelley 
Senior Editor 

The attitude of timesharing com¬ 
panies that they “will not sell soft¬ 
ware" appears to be changing some¬ 
what. Timesharing suppliers are de¬ 
veloping new programs for mini¬ 
computers, with the idea these will 
be transferred via sale or lease to 
customers. Other customers wanting 
the option to eventually change to an 
in-house computer are being offered 
the timesharing firm's existing propri¬ 
etary software in a few cases. Addi¬ 
tionally, timesharing companies 
sometimes market third-party soft¬ 
ware under license. 

“We're thinking of offering for sale 
or lease, application-oriented 
packages for minicomputers," says 
Ron Braniff, vice president, Computer 
Services Group, Tymshare, Inc. He 
thinks customers for these products 
will most likely continue to use re¬ 
mote computing services from his 
firm in conjunction with in-house 
minicomputers. 

Identifying special areas 

Apart from this development, 
occurring with several suppliers, Bra- 
niff adds that the overwhelming trend 
for timesharing suppliers is to identify 
special application areas based on an 
industry (e.g., banking) or a discipline 


(e.g., accounting) and offer an in-: 
creasingly broad spectrum of services; 
to these areas. 

Tymshare's move toward sale of 
minicomputer software is partly am 
attempt to broaden its offering fori 
certain explicit industries. It is also an, 
attempt to capitalize on the growing! 
popularity of minicomputers rather 
than lose Business because of their 
usage. “We believe minicomputers 
will offer an avenue for new applica¬ 
tions which we could not handle with 
our host computers. I think these ma¬ 
chines represent more of an oppor¬ 
tunity than a threat." 

With the impetus to offer new ser¬ 
vices aimed at particular industries, 
software may become one of these 
new services. Other timesharing firms 
are already selling proprietary soft¬ 
ware previously available for use only 
on the supplier's host mainframe. 

University Computing Co. (UCC) 
has been in the numerical control ser¬ 
vices field for about 10 years, and ex¬ 
ecutives made the decision in 1976 to 
offer proprietary application programs 
to users who wanted to go in-house. 
“Rather than fight the trend for users 
to put some of their applications on 
minicomputers, we decided to help 
them go to in-house equipment," 
says UCC systems marketing mani 
ager, Charles Shelton. “We offer td 
sell them the same numerical control 
programs previously used with our 
network service for application on 
their own large computers from IBM 
or Univac and on DEC mini¬ 
computers." 

While it is not likely that a flood of 
timesharing firms will start offering 
proprietary software, more examples 


are turning up. 

Word management 

Bowne Timesharing is in “word 
management" which a spokesman 
defines as being composed of text 
editing and information retrieval. “We 
made the decision about nine months 
ago to offer transfer of our software, 
and we think this is an excellent way 
to go," states Bill Mahony, vice presi¬ 
dent for sales. “We say to customers, 
'we'll teach you about text editing on 
our network, and when you're ready 
to go to your own computer you can 
purchase the software you've been 
using.' Some customers have already 
made the change." 

Not all software used in the 
timesharing mode is proprietary to 
the timesharing supplier. Packages 
developed at third-party software 
companies are frequently employed. 

ADP Network Services does not of¬ 
fer its proprietary software for sale, 
but a spokesman points out that at 
least one package used by customers 
was developed by an outside soft¬ 
ware vendor. "Customers are some¬ 
times reluctant to get locked into a 
timesharing company," concedes 
Dick Vento, manager, management 
information services, ADP, “but at 
least for this one package they know 
they can go in-house." He adds his 
firm has been marketing the data 
base management system he refers to 
for about two years, “and our clients 
who acquire the DBMS package are 
likely to continue using us for other 
applications." 

Even those customers making an al¬ 
most complete in-house transition 
often continue to use a timesharing 







company for special purposes, points 
out Glen Hitchcock, manager, prod¬ 
uct marketing, United Computing 
Systems. "Customers will sometimes 
use us for software development as it 
is needed while handling production 
runs on their own computers." 

Users may find it helpful to under¬ 
stand supplier thinking with respect 
to the transfer of software. "There's a 
question of whether it's profitable for 
timesharing companies to sell soft¬ 
ware," says Robert Flynn, product 
manager, Boeing Computer Services. 
This consideration could lead sup¬ 
pliers to quote very high prices for the 
transfer of an application from the 
timesharing service to an in-house 
computer. 

It's also generally true that suppliers 
must reach a certain minimum size 
before they become profitable, and 
after this point they must concentrate 
on keeping their computers busy. 
Suppliers are not anxious to see work 
move from their machines to in- 
house computers. Xerox Computer 
Services (XCS) was founded in 1970 
and only turned profitable this year, 
according to reports. 

Nevertheless: "We would like to 
be in a position to offer our software 
for sale," states XCS marketing vice 
president Haig Bazoin. "With us it 
would be a question of making our 
software useful* on large-scale com¬ 
puters other than the Sigmas we use." 

Changing to in-house 

Despite many difficulties inherent 
with the move, DP consultant Dick 
Brandon has some suggestions for 
users wanting the option to change 
from a timesharing company to an in- 
house computer. "Not all application 
programs offered by timesharing 
companies were developed by those 
suppliers. Some were acquired from 
software companies and it is hot al¬ 
ways clear which are available from a 
third party and which aren't. 

"User's thinking of going with a 
timesharing supplier should try to de¬ 
termine who owns all the software 
offered before they sign up. They can 
check lists of available packages and 
simply ask the timesharing company. 
If the software is being leased or sold 
by a third-party software company on 
the open market, eventual conversion 
to an in-house computer should be 
fairly easy. 

"For those parts of a timesharing 


company's software which are propri¬ 
etary to the services firm, the user 
should ask about options to convert 
to an in-house computer before he 
signs the contract. The larger users are 
more likely to carry clout in obtaining 
this option. Users should also ask the 
services firm if software can subse¬ 
quently be acquired at a reduced 
price when conversion takes place. 

"Finally, if the user knows he wants 
to go in-house eventually, he might 
think of developing the software him¬ 
self or contracting for it. He would 
then use the service firm's computer 
until the time when it makes sense to 
move to an internal computer," ac¬ 
cording to the president of ACT- 
Brandon Co. 

Converting from a remote comput¬ 
ing services firm to an internal com¬ 
puter, however, can be extremely 
difficult, "a formidable although finite 
problem," according to John Lewis, 
president of consulting firm Real De¬ 
cisions Corp. He believes that users 
wanting to convert should insure that 
software, which a timesharing com¬ 
pany is willing to transfer, can be ap¬ 
plied with the size and make of com¬ 
puter the user can afford. "It doesn't 
make sense to acquire an option for 
software useful only on an IBM 370/ 
168, if the user is able to acquire 
nothing more than an IBM System/ 
32." 

Lewis also thinks discussions about 
changing to minicomputers has re¬ 
mained talk, rather than action, for 
the most part. He points out that 
users thinking of minicomputers 
should make sure response time for 
interactive applications will be as fast 
as with a timesharing company's 
computer. 

Hardware economical 

Lewis adds: "The in-house mini¬ 
computer for interactive and batch is 
often hardware economical relative 
to an outside service firm. Personnel 
cost, however, is often prohibitive 
compared to expense for equivalent 
services from a timesharing vendor. 
Internal programming and operating 
expenses can be very high. Com¬ 
panies must also consider whether 
the employees who will ultimately 
make use of the minicomputer have 
the necessary skills for this. 

"Whether converting to a large 
computer or a minicomputer, users 
have a great number of cost items to 



consider. Very important is the com¬ 
parative expense of developing or 
buying the equivalent of proprietary 
software. Users must also consider 
the cost for obtaining the equivalent 
software updates, network services 
and technical support which 
timesharing companies provide." 

He emphasizes that network con¬ 
siderations alone' merit close ex¬ 
amination. "When a lot of remote 
data stations are involved, users must 
consider the relative costs for an in- 
house system vis a vis a timesharing 
company. The timesharing company 
can often provide economy in com¬ 
munications over and above what the 
user can achieve for himself." 

The Real Decisions Corp.'s presi¬ 
dent concludes that conversion is 
likely to be easier when less network 
processing is involved. He adds that 
the move to an in-house system is 
similarly less complex when general- 
purpose timesharing is involved or 
when the service firm's computer was 
used as a utility. "This doesn't mean 
necessarily that in-house or contract 
software development is recom¬ 
mended, although it is usually easier 
to bring up an internal computer 
when the user owns the software and 
has employed the timesharing firm's 
computer as a utility." 

He recommends that users wanting 
the option of going in-house "inquire 
not only about software transfer, but 
also ask if the timesharing firm will of¬ 
fer facilities management for the in- 
house computer until the conversion 
is finished. 

While users may want the ability to 
go in-house as an option, indications 
are that timesharing usage will actual¬ 
ly increase. Various predictions put 
compound annual growth at 14 to 22 
percent for the next five years. 

The designation "timesharing," 
having the connotation of interactive 
processing only, is often thought to 
be a less descriptive term than "re¬ 
mote computing services." This de¬ 
scription implies interactive, batch 
and remote batch processing carried 
out via user-located terminals linked 
to the remote computer of the ser¬ 
vices firm. 

The future is bullish 

Taking this latter definition, re¬ 
search firm INPUT is very bullish on 
the future. The Menlo Park, CA, com¬ 


pany estimates growth from about $1 
billion in 1975 to approximately $3.2 
billion in 1981. Data base services, in¬ 
dicating user capability of accessing a 
service firm's computer-based infor¬ 
mation files, has become an in¬ 
creasingly important activity. With 
data base services added to remote 
computing services, INPUT estimates 
industry growth from $1.1 billion to 
$3.8 billion over the same period. 

Users contemplating first-time or 
additional applications with timeshar¬ 
ing companies will have a wide 
choice of suppliers from among the 
100 or so companies in the field. 

Some members in the Association 
of Time-Sharing Users (ATSU) advise 
that customers pick several potential 
suppliers, run benchmark tests to 
check actual results obtained with 
different firms, and be willing to 
negotiate since final prices for con¬ 
tracts are sometimes less than "list." 
Made up of 1,200 individuals who 
either use timesharing or work for 
supplier companies, ATSU provides 
several directories. The trade group 
headquartered in' Boulder, CO, lists 
supplier profiles, specialties and 
methodology used to provide secur¬ 
ity for client data. Another list is 
headed by the names of major cities, 
under which follow the names of sup¬ 
pliers offering toll-free telephone lines 
from these points as part of the over¬ 
all service charge. 

The Association of Data Processing 
Service Organizations (ADAPSO) is 
composed of 315 corporate members 
in the service bureau, timesharing, 
software and consulting fields. ADAP¬ 
SO, based in MOntvale, NJ, has a list¬ 
ing of timesharing suppliers based on 
applictions specialties. 

It is clear that "specialties" are in¬ 
creasing for suppliers in the field tradi¬ 
tionally known as "timesharing." 
Timesharing companies are con¬ 
stantly offering more consulting aids, 
more technical support and more 
software to particular industries and 
disciplines. □ 


Reprinted with permission of INFOSYSTEMS , 
October 1977, Copyright 1977, Hitchcock 
Publishing Company. 



Who is 

timesharing 

whom? 

by Philip Stein 


Timesharing is a process by which 
more than one user has access to the 
capabilities of a computer for the 
purpose of more efficiently using its 
capabilities. 

Most computer programming 
jobs, and many small computations, 
take little cpu time. Many of them, 
however, also take correspondingly 
large amounts of interaction with the 
user. These applications are good 
candidates for timesharing and feed 
on themselves since timesharing 
computers are often chock-full of 
interactive languages which en¬ 
courage lengthy terminal sessions by 
users. Timesharing has become a 
way of life for students, scientists and 
many other system users who need 
lots of little jobs done. 

Timesharing is possible on mini¬ 
computers, and several products are 
available with this capability. Be 
aware, though, that you can’t just 
buy a minicomputer and terminal 
interfaces, hook up a few crts, and 
open shop. There are a few things the 
mini must have if you plan to time- 
share. 

OS is crucial 

First, last, and always is the oper¬ 
ating system. This is the program 
which, while doing very little for the 
user by itself, acts as a tratffic man¬ 
ager to make sure that each job gets 
its turn, and that no job interferes 
with or destroys another job. 
Without a timesharing oriented op¬ 
erating system, you might as well not 
use the mini for that purpose. Time¬ 
sharing operating systems are dif¬ 
ficult and expensive beasts. Many 
mini makers will tell you that their 
hot-shot multitasking system will do 


the job, but it isn’t exactly true. 

Multitasking is a process by which 
many programs can share resources 
in the same computer mainframe, 
each taking some of the cpu’s time, 
and relinquishing this time either on 
schedule or when a high-priority task 
enters the system. Computers that 
can perform independent i/o can 
start i/o for a particular task, then 
do other work until the I/O is fin¬ 
ished. So far, so good. It looks as if 
a number of tasks of the same priori¬ 
ty can be set up so that multitasking 
becomes timesharing. But it may not 
be if: 

• The OS is organized so that when 
several jobs exist at the same priority, 
they are automatically allowed to 
take sequential turns. This is called 
round-robin scheduling, and not all 
systems can do it. 

. The system does not allow jobs 
to be started, new devices to be 
logged on and operated, and new 
users brought online from any termi¬ 
nal without the intervention of the 
console operator. Most multitasking 
systems are oriented around realtime 
applications, where only the console 
operator can do such necessary time¬ 
sharing processes as loading a new 
program into the user’s workspace or 
connecting his output to the printer. 

. The system does not have an 
auto-answer direct access telephone 
arrangement. Many operating sys¬ 
tems support data communications, 
but only with data circuits that are 
established manually. 

• The operating system does not 
have a routine to support user 
passwords and identification pro¬ 
cedures, and to protect programs 
and files from inadvertent or de¬ 
liberate damage by users other than 
the owner of the data. 

• The operating system does not 
support a cost accounting program 
to keep track of the amount of time 
and other resources of the system 
consumed by each user, one that can 
also be used for billing or statistical 
purposes. 


Remember, you are going to need 
each of these features, whether they 
seem to make a great deal of sense 
to you now or not. If they are not 
supplied by the equipment vendor, 
guess who is going to have to write 
them. 

More software, too 

In addition to these timesharing OS 
features, several other pieces of soft¬ 
ware are needed. Most important is 
a first-rate interactive text editor. 
This should be capable of acting as 
a line-at-a-time editor or as a fully 
context-oriented alphanumeric data 
manager. It would be best if it 
worked on entire files rather than on 
small text buffers. The user interac¬ 
tions should be clear, simple and 
robust. Most of the time spent on the 
system by your users will be with the 
editor. If the editor is happy, they 
will be too. 

You will also need a hotshot copy 
and file management utility. Again, 
there is no way to make one of these 
utility systems too good, too user- 
oriented, or too convenient. 

You will need an interactive lan¬ 
guage or two. Basic and Fortran are 
the most common ones, and there are 
many other good ones. 

Finally, you will almost certainly 
need a group of peripherals and a 
very good service contract. You can 
buy the mainframer’s peripherals, 
but plug-compatible peripherals are 
almost always a good idea, since they 
usually offer better value per dollar 
and often outperform the offerings 
from the cpu vendor. 

Without a clearly thought-out, 
strongly worded service contract you 
may watch your downtime grow 
from minutes to hours to days, as 
service technicians get sulky and 
wander aimlessly around, pointing 
accusingly at each other. 

A single, vendor, or at least a 
single service source, is absolutely 
necessary if you want to keep your 
head away from the users’ guillotine. 

□ 


Reprinted with permission of COMPUTER DECISIONS, September 1977, 
Copyright 1977, Hayden Publishing Company.