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November 2, 1997

Dayna NetCenter

Network infrastructure products such as hubs, switches, and routers are not exactly "mainstream" products, such as those typically marketed to technology enthusiasts and IT jocks.

Dayna Communications hopes to change that trend with its NetCenter infrastructure products for the mass market. The products should appeal to network novices at small sites, but their simplicity and lack of configurability make them unsuited for enterprise use. Intel recently acquired Dayna.

The NetCenter line consists of a variety of basic infrastructure products that are cheap, easy to use, and very limited in functionality. Five- and eight-port 10Mbps Ethernet hubs, a 100Mbps fast Ethernet hub, a 10Mbps Ethernet switch, and a dial-on-demand small office/home office router comprise the product line.

Little management capability

The NetCenter products offer the kind of features one would expect for first-time, amateur networkers. They are small and visually appealing (these users don't have racks in the closet), stackable, and highly modular, with very limited or nonexistent setup and management features.

For example, none of the products comes with a manual; they simply don't need documentation. The hubs and switches do not provide management capabilities beyond the LEDs on the front of the units. The only device that involves any software-driven setup, the dial-on-demand router, uses an embedded Web server, configured with a Java-compliant browser.

Easy to use

I found the units very easy to set up and use. Because all except the router lack configuration options, I simply needed to plug the units in to the network and AC circuits, and I was done.

Because each unit serves a discrete function, Dayna designed them to interlock with each other on a highly modular basis. You just snap them together; there is no need to fuss with screws or mounts.

I was surprised to see that the packages did not include Ethernet cables. First-time buyers are not likely to know that they will need a separate cable. Even the router did not have a cable, a common element in even the most sophisticated products of its ilk.

The LEDs appeared very clear and easy to understand, lighting up when a link was established, and blinking on and off when traffic was flowing through the port. That left very little room to misinterpret the status of the network. However, one of the ports on the 10Mbps switch that I looked at was bad.

Although the LED came on, devices attached to that port failed to find any other equipment on the network. After replacing the unit with another one from Dayna, all was well.

Inflexible router

Although I easily installed the router, I had trouble configuring it. The device is configured to use a "private" Class C IP address block on the Ethernet port, and it also acts as a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server for other devices on the local network. Users who do not have a TCP/IP network already in place will appreciate this configuration, because all of the DHCP-aware systems on their network will be able to communicate via IP immediately.

Unfortunately, I could not override any of this functionality. Because the device is locked into this address pool, I could not get it onto an existing IP network. Furthermore, the system does not permit you to disable the DHCP server.

The only router parts that I could configure were the asynchronous adapters and the ISP connection and Point to Point Protocol log-in information. The router provides a single serial port for use with external modems and also offers two PC Card slots that can support an analog modem, an ISDN terminal adapter, or both simultaneously.

Dayna provided a PC Card modem to use during testing, and the router successfully recognized it. However, it failed to recognize the Angia Communications' ISDN terminal adapter that I put into the second slot. The router also lacks options for editing Attention commands.

In addition, I was unable to configure the router using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 client. Dayna technicians explained that you can change the HTTP default to 1.0 under Explorer 4.0's Internet Settings, Advanced, and then reboot the PC, but that the program will run very slowly. I was able to use Explorer 3.01 and Netscape Navigator 4.0, as long as I enabled Java on those clients.

Given the NetCenter product line's rigidity, my guess is that mostly novice networkers will be drawn to it. But for small offices its simplicity and straightforward design make the introduction to networking hassle-free.

The clean, simple design and lack of options in this line of devices make them ideal for beginning networkers, but they do not provide the flexibility or manageability sophisticated users require.

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Copyright © 2010-2017 Eric A. Hall.
Portions copyright © 1997 InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. Used with permission.