MIT's Athena Technology Is Transplanted To Two New Campuses

MAYNARD, Mass., Aug. 30, 1990 -- PRNewswire -- "Athena," the innovative computing environment developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will be up and running at two new campuses this fall.

North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Iowa State University (ISU) signed contracts totaling $7 million with Digital Equipment Corporation (NYSE: DEC) to install the Athena systems software and link together hundreds of Digital workstations.

On each campus, the result will be a large-scale, high-performance network designed to support students, faculty, and researchers using UNIX based systems.

"Athena offers a new model for managing large numbers of workstations in a network," said Barry Braunstein, Digital's Manager of Research and Science/Engineering Solutions in the Education Market. "Computing resources are centrally managed and highly accessible to users completely location independent. Users can walk up to any workstation on the network and log on, and access the same files, software, and electronic mail."

Athena software services developed at MIT are freely redistributable. Digital is offering support in planning, installation, and staff training to universities who want to adopt the system.

At Iowa State, the Athena environment will include users from engineering, the sciences, and a variety of other disciplines. "The initial focus of the project is to stimulate high-quality research by putting powerful tools into the hands of our faculty and graduate students," said George Strawn, Director of Iowa State's Computation Center.

Strawn said that researchers will benefit from the speed and power of workstations, and from the 'visualization' of research data, which is made possible by computer graphics, things not previously available in their existing computing environment.

The network will also make it easier to connect to off-campus resources such as the National Science Foundation's supercomputers.

At North Carolina State University, the network's primary function is to support engineering education.

"In the `real world,' computers are an integral part of engineering," said William Willis, Director of Engineering Computing Operations. "Yet there's no consistent exposure to computers in the undergraduate curriculum. Our goal is to ensure that a new generation of students is comfortable using these modern tools."

This fall, only freshmen engineering students will use the Athena environment. Over time, all engineering students will use the workstations for design projects, simulation and modeling, sharing data, writing papers, and solving homework problems.

Braunstein explained that Project Athena resolved many technical problems that had made it expensive and technically difficult to manage UNIX workstations in a network. Two key areas were system security and the cost of network management.

"Athena's `Kerberos' network authentication system ensures a very high level of security," said Braunstein. "And the automated `Moira' Service Management System makes it possible to deploy a large number of workstations in a cost-effective way, using a client-server model, under central management.

"Cost-conscious institutions can support a large-scale environment with a relatively small staff. For example, MIT runs an installation of 1,000-plus workstations with a staff of six people in hardware operations and systems administration proper."

Both NCSU and ISU had similar reasons for choosing to work with Digital. Strawn explained, "Iowa State has a long relationship with Digital, dating back to the 1960s. For this project, Digital workstations offered excellent price/performance, and Digital's proposal was the most innovative in terms of the Athena software."

Dr. Willis said, "In implementing the Athena technology, NCSU was really looking for a partner. We reviewed three excellent proposals. But Digital had much more experience with Athena and has much stronger educational programs."

Digital Equipment Corporation, headquartered in Maynard, Mass., is the leading worldwide supplier of networked computer systems and services. Digital offers a full range of computing solutions and systems integration for the entire enterprise -- from the desktop to the data center.

Note to Editors: DECstation is a trademark of Digital Equipment Corporation.

UNIX is a registered trademark of American Telephone & Telegraph Co.

Project Athena, Kerberos Authentication Service and Moira Service Management System are registered trademarks of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

CONTACT: Christine Chamberlain of Digital Equipment Corp., 508-467-2144; Dr. William Willis of North Carolina State University, 919-737-2458; or Dr. George Strawn of Iowa State University, 515-294-3402/


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