CREN response to questions

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Jim Conklin

Mar 23, 1994, 11:36:19 AM3/23/94
We have been asked by a number of people why CREN acquired ListProc when we
just reached an agreement with L-Soft for LISTSERV. Why don't we just wait
for L-Soft's Unix product and how do these two products fit into the CREN
Strategic Plan for List Managers? Our response follows:

It is our belief that one of the essential tools supporting scholarly
collaboration in the Bitnet community is a global network of compatible
List Managers that communicate with each other and economize on the
bandwidth needed to send multiple copies of a document. Although many
institutions have adequate bandwidth on the Internet to send multiple
copies of ASCII text documents today, a bandwidth crunch will certainly
occur when people begin sending multiple copies of multi-media documents
and that is starting to happen. The best way to insure the existence of a
compatible network of List Managers for Bitnet members is to make at least
one license to a List Manager, on an open platform, free to Bitnet members
so that it is available to everyone in that community. A major reason
enabling our past ability to standardize on LISTSERV within Bitnet was that
it was free to the Higher Education Bitnet community. A major factor in
the growth of other network applications such as the Internet Gopher and
of Mosaic and World-Wide Web is the fact that every institution can afford
to acquire the software because it is currently free.

A lot of institutions are giving up their academic VM machines and are
migrating academic support to micro computers, workstations and Unix
network servers. These institutions need a Unix based List Manager now.
More than half of our members do not run a VM system and do not currently
have access to a CREN supported List Manager. L-Soft has published its
development plan which indicates that its first Unix product is probably at
least a year away, behind a VMS and Windows NT version in priority, and its
price is unknown. In that time period, unless there is a product to fill
the gap, institutions will go in multiple directions complicating the job
of recreating compatibility. CREN acquired ListPROC because: it is largely
compatible with LISTSERV and we are making it more compatible; it is very
widely used in higher education (more than 320 sites world-wide and rapidly
growing); it works very well today as CREN and many institutions that use
it every day can testify and the two CREN versions scheduled for release
this year will greatly improve the product. We hope that this strategy
ensures that the Bitnet community can maintain a common direction as
institutions migrate from NJE to TCP/IP. In addition, unlike every other
alternative that we explored, we have control over the development process
and we can afford both to improve the product, and make one license for
each of these two versions free to members of the global Bitnet community.

Another reason for acquiring this product is that we believe strongly in
the IETF process for creating open standards for Internet products and
intend to pursue that process with ListPROC. We could not assure ourselves
that this would happen with products over which we had no control With
open standards, there is a process for insuring that products from
different vendors will communicate with each other and work together
harmoniously. This process also enables a lot of companies to get into the
market resulting in low cost compatible products. When those products are
available we can all concentrate on other applications.

For institutions maintaining a VM system and wanting to continue to run
LISTSERV, we have an agreement with L-soft for support of their NJE
product through June 30, 1995 at a price that we hope institutions will
find affordable. This affords them the opportunity, if they so desire, to
wait for L-Soft's workstation products. Institutions planning to keep
their VM systems for a long enough period of time to justify the cost of
the license, may find L-Soft's LISTSERV-TCP/IP product attractive. We had
hoped to include LISTSERV TCP/IP in our agreement with L-Soft but L-Soft
has chosen to make it a separate product requiring a new license and the
cost of that license is currently scaled to mainframe rather that
workstation software prices.

The acquisition of ListProc and the agreement with L-soft both contribute
to the goal in the CREN strategic plan of helping CREN members migrate from
NJE to TCP/IP. For many of our members, that transition will occur over
the coming year and we believe that the L-Soft Agreement and the
availability of ListProc will facilitate that transition. They also both
contribute to the CREN goal of maintaining and enhancing the current global
network of List Managers. CREN is exploring an ambitious list of
enhancements including multi-media support, support for list management
clients on Mac OS and Dos Windows platforms, and support for privacy
enhanced mail.

Although we felt it necessary to respond to the lists on which these
questions were raised, we would appreciate follow-up discussion being
directed to the list, which was set up for the purpose
of continuing this discusson. Note that subscription requests for
cren-list should be sent to and contain the message
text line
sub cren-list firstname lastname

Ken King
Executive Director, CREN

Jim Conklin
Director, BITNET/CREN Network Information Center

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