The North American unit of London-based Barclays Bank has deployed more than 1,000 desktop computers in a project aimed at giving its bankers access to up-to-date information stored on any computer in its worldwide network.

Barclays' North American unit is acting as a pilot site for some new technologies the parent company wants to evaluate.

The unit is engaged in a multi-million-dollar project to move to a "client/server" computer environment in which data processing tasks are shared across a network of personal computers. Technologists maintain that client/server computing can reduce the cost of processing by letting the bank move away from costly mainframes.

Employing Unix

Barclays' North American unit also is installing computers that use the Unix operating system. Operating systems govern the basic functions of a computer, and Unix is designed to let the same software be run on computer hardware from many different manufacturers.

The Barclays unit is replacing older terminals with new desk-top machines, including Unix-based workstations and personal computers.

"We have certain advantages -- we're smaller [than the British parent]; we're not as retail-driven, and we're closer to technology sources," said Robert F. Petrie, vice president of Barclays Network Services, which is based in New York. He spoke at a recent New York City seminar sponsored by Microsoft Inc.

Scrapping Wang, DEC Machines

The parent company's ultimate goal is to let bankers have access, via electronic mail, to information stored in London, Tokyo, and New York.

As part of the project, the North American unit plans to replace office automation equipment from Wang Laboratories Inc. by yearend and to phase out its VAX computers from Digital Equipment Corp. by the end of 1993. The bank will retain its International Business Machines Corp. mainframes.

Barclays North America already has deployed about 1,000 personal computers and workstations and now is adding more than 200 in departments that until now had either relied on mainframe-linked terminals, such as the trade services area, or used few personal computers, as in executive areas.

"We're trying to rationalize our networks into an open electronic mail environment," said Mr. Petrie.

The bank wants, by next year, to replace Microsoft's DOS operating system, Mr. Petrie said, with an operating system at the desktop that allows multiple tasks to be done at once. However, he said, he is not yet sure whether to choose Unix, Microsoft's planned Windows NT, or another alternative for multi-tasking software.

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