John Deere WIN summary

John Deere – Wide area Integrated Network (WIN)

Project recap

Client

Deere & Company

Date

1990

Summary

Global, multi-protocol network connecting major John Deere facilities and the early public Internet. IBM mainframes, mini-computers, engineering CAD/CAM workstations, and factory-floor machines accessed the network using TCP/IP; IMS & DB2 corporate data repositories were extended with local Oracle databases.

Skills

,   (← all projects)

Project details

Background

The John Deere Industrial Equipment division operated with locations in Dubuque and Davenport Iowa. The division was part of the larger, global company - Deere & Company, headquartered in Moline, Illinois.

Problem

The two locations - Dubuque & Davenport - each had unique products they produced, but also shared many common resources - such as a Product Engineering center in Dubuque. Only a low-speed, terminal based, IBM SNA network connected the two locations to corporate, making it difficult for both sites to work on simultaneous engineering projects together.

At the same time Computer Aided Design (CAD), Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) technologies (as well as Computer Aided Process Planning - CAPP) were beginning to emerge. The need to connect office, factory floor, and corporate locations together with a peer-to-peer network became huge.

Solution

At the John Deere Dubuque Works, I built both office and shop floor local area networks based on EthernetTCP/IP, DECnet, and AppleTalk. We connected IBM PC, Macintosh, Tandem Non-Stop, DEC VAX, DEC PDP, ComputerVision, and Sun/CIMLINC UNIX workstations together over a series of local networks. And as we advanced into something called Group Technology/cellular manufacturing, we connected those networks to machine tools and computers on the shop floor.

The only task that remained was to start connecting factories together - along with corporate - over a common wide area network.

Tools & resources

TCP/IP, DECnet, IBM SNA, AppleTalk

Discussion

We approached the Deere Corporate Telecommunications - who pretty much only supported SNA & Token Ring for network architectures - and proposed a pilot project to connect Dubuque & Davenport with a peer-to-peer (TCP/IP) wide area network. We also said we'd also like to eventually attach the IBM mainframes at corporate to the WAN.

At first they weren't in favor of the project. While the pressure from our management and other factories was too high to ignore, they reluctantly agreed we could do the pilot over 56kb circuits. As a thank you I said "Why don't you guys name the project then?" They agreed and came up with an acronym - FIASCO - the Factory Interconnect and Systems Connectivity Options project. I laughed & said fine.

The project was an amazing success. We even connected to the very early public Internet and our IBM mainframes. In the end our corporate VP for IT said he liked the project and that we should do it for all factories - but change the name. This time I got to pick the acronym. So I suggested Wide area Integrated Network (WIN). Everyone laughed, even my friends at corporate, and the name stuck. I think even to this day I've heard reference to WIN lines between the factories.

Without a doubt, this project was probably my best professional accomplishment. It involved bleeding edge technology, the (way) early Internet, and changing the direction of computing for Fortune 100 company.