Client/ Server Technology “Technology provides the nervous system- the inputs- for the enterprise’s human community to understand, adapt and act on.”1 Client/ Server is a term that is commonly used today in the reference of computer systems that exist connected together in a business environment. Understanding the term Client/ Server is a complexity if terms, ideologies and equipment that are part of the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure commonly misunderstood by most employees in a company. Computers tend to be a tool that is used by the majority of employees during the daily operations of companies. Computers since the early 1980’s are an instrumental tool in assisting people to accomplish task that improve how the company financially performs. Often people using computers desire understanding only the necessary information regarding the computer that is essential in completing the operations and functions that they need to adequately perform their jobs requirements. A manager today desiring to remain in a primary decision making capacity of the company must expand their understanding of the computer system infrastructure in their organization and investigate new trends in computer technology to adapt to their current system. Managers must become proactive in adapting, developing, and maximizing the computer systems capacity that will assist the company in maintaining a competitive status in their industry. Client/ Server technology is a critical component in the use of computers within a companies computer operation. To understanding what is Client/ Sever there is an entire vocabulary that is specific to Client/ Server that a manager needs to know or have a computer dictionary available for reference. Client/ Server has over three hundred terms and concepts that are associated with the operations and mechanics of Client/ Server. This document will use terms that are specific to the operations and mechanics of Client/ Server. When the term is introduced
in the text for the first time the term will appear italicized and colored blue. The terms are defined in a glossary appendix to not interrupt the information contained in the body of this document. The terms in the Glossary can be located from the publishers PCNOVICE/Smart Computing, Computing Dictionary 3rd edition for $9.95 at most bookstores or news stands. Information for purchase will be located as an appendix item. Client/ Server architecture defined by the Hutchinson Dictionary of Computing, Multimedia, and the Internet, “A system in which the mechanics of looking after data are separated from the programs that use the data. For example, the ‘server’ might be a central database, typically located on a large computer that is reserved for this purpose. The ‘client’ would be an ordinary program that requests that data from the server. Most Internet services are examples of Client/ Server applications.”2 Client/ Server is the use of multiple computers connected together to exchange and share data among each other, using a central computer that maintains the information for all the computers connected to that computer. The main computer that has the data, is the server, the computers that connect to the server are often referred to as a workstation or a client. There are a variety of types of servers that can range from a high speed Personal Computer, Mini Computer, and Mainframe Computer System. The Client/ Server came into existence with the advent of the personal computers in the early 1980’s. Business needed more flexibility and reduced development time to create reports and this promoted the use of the personal computer (PC), replacing in some instances the mainframe computer. “Before (The Client/ Server system), we couldn’t do the things we wanted to do in today’s world,” said Don Page of Color Graphics Inc. in Los Angeles. “The technology was too old. It was a legacy system that had simply outgrown its time.” 3 The PC (Micro Computers) a standalone computer that is an island of information and to share information a floppy disk or other media that could save information on it to transfer to another computer. The
network idea of sharing information was developed using a variety of typologies to connect the computers to a File server. This was the advent of Client/ Server and was primarily in competition with the traditional MIS departments mainframe computer system. “The traditional mainframe environment, all of the data processing is centralized on one machine. The mainframe stores the data; manipulates it for updates, queries and reports; and sends the image of the data to user terminals when requested….In file server-based computing… This computing platform requires a network with intelligent workstations (i.e., PCs) attached. The data is centralized on a file server. When a person requests information from the central database, the entire data file is transmitted across the network connection, down to the user’s desktop PC where they can manipulate or display the data.” 4 Some business began to find that the Client/ Server networks needed to attach to the existing mainframe computing systems and the PC computer networks. Gateways are used to access the mainframe computer and use the PC in a terminal emulation mode to read legacy data information systems from the mainframe computer. This existed in company’s that could afford mainframe computers and for people that need to use propriety programs written specifically for the company by in house programmers or contracted programmers. The growth of the Internet, the advent of new software, and the need for strategic partnerships in industry to remain competitive has forced the relationship between the PC networks and the mini and mainframe systems to become a partnership that is now defined as Client/ Server. A Client/ Server configuration can now be considered any or all combinations of the three main computer systems, illustrated below.5
Dos Windows NT
Mini- Med Server
AX NT Mainframe- Large
CMOS The above chart6 provides an overview of the variety of systems that are being combined to create Client/ Server environments in companies currently.
Simply stated a client is any time one computer needs to communicate with another computer to send or receive information. This new definition includes even notebook computers dialing in to get email off the Internet or into the company to get the Intranet mail or access the computer system as a remote computer, telecommuting to do work on the companyâ€™s computer system. Networks provide many benefits to businesses for ease of access to information, increased productivity, ease of program installation, security in monitoring and controlling of who uses the companyâ€™s computers. Reliability of the hardware has increased immensely over the recent years and the ability to centralize data provides for backing up company wide data and not having multiple hard drive that have information stored on a variety of computers. Management of a network system is critical in order to maintain uniform data and current information. Companies grow into network needs, many companies have multiple hardware system types, multiple software platforms which create difficulties when they move into a network environment. Successful network management requires developing company wide software platforms, data storage rules, and access rights
“The early and mid-1990s have shown significant improvement in the way that desktop systems are combined with robust data servers to create a Client/ Server platform worthy of hosting business-critical applications. The essential technology is falling into place, including enterprise networking, relational and object-oriented databases, network management systems, communications, network and data security, and application development tools.”7 Information Week magazine reported in 500 hundred companies nation wide and cross industries on the average “Portion of workers with desktop access to data on enterprise servers, mainframes or data warehouses is 35%” 8 of the companies workforce. Companies like SUN, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Digital, Silicon Graphics are now focusing their attention in joint development of mainframe systems and workstations to provide complete service to business needs. These workstations are PC computers but they are sold under the umbrella of providing networking solutions to businesses. These workstations interface directly with the companies mainframe systems. These workstations are considerably more expensive then systems that are configured by many PC clone workstation computer vendors. The data in the graph9 shows the monies generated by these firms by focusing on the workstation with cost per unit ranging from $4000.00 $20,000.00 dollars. Companies are looking to computer manufacturers,
communication companies to manage their computer systems and data systems. “Midsize companies with limited IT resources often must look outside the organization when it comes to the day–to-day grind of running complicated projects.”10 The incentive to utilize the Client/ Server is motivated by the need to share resources and maintain cost like printers, scanners, fax server, communication server, data sharing, and application sharing. Networks provide access. The connection of the computers a node is
performed through Network Interface Cards (NIC), cables, connecting to hubs, repeaters, routers and gateways. Network interface cards plug into the PC computer on the motherboard and communicate signals with the PC out onto the network and from the network to the PC. The standard type of cable technology is Ethernet that uses either coaxial cable or 10Base-T cable configurations. There are star network structures, which are most common, ring and bus network structures as illustrated.11 Hubs are the central communications link that pass signals through out the network Repeaters are used to assist the hubs when the signal needs to be enhanced due to distance of travel. The routers route information the fastest possible way from one network to another. Bridges interconnect separate networks to make the separate appear as one large network if the user has security and access rights. New technologies are evolving and now there are dual devices called brouters that combine the functions of the router and the bridge for efficiency and cost benefits. Gateways provide a variety of services to a network. Gateways allow two different network types to communicate, and are a gate that allows only those with access rights to enter into a system. Gateways are the primary firewall that prevents outsiders from accessing a network via a modem if they do not have the correct password or encryption code. A security must be developed in todayâ€™s information and communication age is critical to prevent intruders from entering into the computer system. There are a variety of Client/ Server network types; Peer-to-Peer, Local Area Networks (LAN), Wide Area Networks (WAN), Extranet, Intranet, and Internet that are common in the business-computing environment. Peer-to-Peer networking provides a cost-effective method of
connecting computers in an organization with only five to ten computers. Peer-to-Peer networking has evolved from the Microsoft Windows products starting with Windows for Workgroups ver. 3.11. Improvements to this method of networking have been made in both Windows 95 and Windows 98. The system is slow when a number of workstations are utilizing and sharing information. This type of network shares right among computers with the same benefits of having a network yet there is no dedicated or Host server. One computer might be the main computer where information and the printer are connected yet that machine is still used as a desktop computer. LAN computer networks dedicate one machine that solely is for network operations and is not used by any user on the network. LAN networks utilize networking software like Novell, NT Windows, and LANtastic and Unix. These network software systems are operating systems that run parallel with other system operating software-using protocols to exchange data. Current protocol that is being used is Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), due to its ability to access the Internet. WAN Computer network systems are large network systems that use the operating system of Unix due to its ability to work on a standalone PC, LAN file server system, Mini and mainframe computer systems. Most WAN are a combination of all the hardware previously discussed and are referred often as enterprise networks. Wide area networks can connect several buildings across cities, states and the world. The Internet is a massive WAN. The Internet is a complex group of networks that uses File Transfer Protocol to effectively communicate with the wide variety of hardware and communication devices throughout the world transferring text, images, sounds an programs. â€œWeb-based application server really is Client/ Server because it is still a client talking to a server.â€? 12 â€œSun Microsystems chief operating officer, Ed Zander, says the application server is the most exciting enterprise
technology since the relational database.”13 “The speed at which corporate development teams deploy new business solutions. The speed required altering strategic applications, as the competitive needs dictate. The speed at which online applications process customer request.” 14 Business is looking at the Internet to be the source for supplying their software needs to keep current with new software developments by leasing instead of purchasing the software. The company will access the software via the Internet and have the current most up to date version of their software. The Internet as an application server that can provide off site programmers to adjust programs to customer needs in a real time mode as the customers needs change. Virtual software application development where programmers can remain off site yet in real time contact with the end client as they develop software. Programmers can perform mini releases and have immediate feedback and input for corrections or changes that the end user needs. Rich Finkelstein, president of the database consulting firm Performance Computing in Chicago, “Because customers are interactively navigating through a wide variety of multimedia data and text, we call this type of application function Online Interactive Processing (OLIP).”15 Companies moving to Client/ Server technology for enhanced communication, information, flexibility, and adaptability. These four areas provide companies with the ability to remain agile in the competitive multinational climate that the Internet has infused into today’s business climate. Entire industries are being transformed from the travel industry, automotive, retail and financial markets. Communication and information transcends the limitations of time and space by receiving complete documents in seconds traveling through cyberspace on the information super highway. “The Internet is a territory that should be viewed as both and end point and a beginning for managers. It’s the end point of the forty year movement of information technology, computers, and telecommunications the periphery to the center of business focus” 16 Web site
development to communicate a company’s services, products and up to date news and information regarding activities related to the company. “Selecting, designing, building, and sustaining relationships is the challenge and the opportunity of the Business Internet” 17 Customers or any one can enter different levels of access depending on the relationship of that person with the company and can even check on order information or inventory of product. Researching and retrieving current data from a variety of organizations are helping companies in their development of new products. Financial managers responsible for corporate portfolios are able to buy and sell stocks and commodities in real time as if being on the stock exchange floor. “Norwest Mortgage Corp deployed a self-service Web application that lets mortgage brokers instantly qualify high-risk mortgages.” David Rae a Norwest systems architect commented “We’re getting data directly from a broker’s computer, which we combine with credit data, the data is then fed into a custom developed rules engine that assesses the application. Loan processing time has been reduced to a minute.”18 Intranet provides corporate wide communication and information that allows news, multimedia, data and programs to be exchanged throughout a company nationally and worldwide. This private network interfaces with LAN, WAN and Internet systems to appear transparent to the users though it may travel across all types of networks during the interaction among employees. “What started as a simple dial-in link to let a marketing services company keep in touch with is sales force is turning into a remote-access infrastructure enhancing the company’s core offerings.”19 Employees in customer sites can remote access current inventory levels of product, check customers previous pricing structure and see the pay history to determine how to negotiate the sale. Video conferencing on the Intranets can occur with employees using multimedia notebooks equipped with video cameras to meet with several groups of people across the company to discuss important information. This type of technology
reduces travel time and allows more people to participate in meeting that time and financial resources limited their involvement in the past. “Companies that have established extranets aren’t doing it for a branding opportunity- their aiming for profits, according to a survey of IT managers by Forrester Research Inc. More than half of the 50 companies surveyed say they established their extranets in order to take orders and distribute marketing and product information to clients.”20 Selling and buying can provide instantaneous services, that directly adjust the inventory in the computer system and prepare shipping and billing information in the computer system all generated by the customer, not internal staff. Hospitals are using extranets to assist each other in keeping current with new trends in surgery. Extranets are being used in surgery to interact with surgeons located in other parts of the world that specialize in unique procedures. This use of extranets provides patients experts right in the operating room but utilizing the amenities of another surgeon in the operating room to perform the procedures the patient needs. Lockheed Martin has utilized an extranet to work cooperatively with NASA, The U.S. Airforce, and several of its Lockheed’s competitors to provide America with the new innovative space transport vehicle that will eventually replace the current space shuttle design currently being used. The time demands and the technology needed to create this type of transport vehicle needed the interaction of the entire
group of organizations and companies to share research and technology discoveries to design the most effective space craft. The graphic represents the extranet of knowledge that is currently being used to construct the X-3321 “Links between the enterprise and its outside network of partners promotes cultural exchange and adaptation to changing business conditions. Aligned interests and affinities maximize profits for the partners and value for the end customer.”22 Flexibility and adaptability of systems that a company uses in all phases of operations is vital for organizations to remain lean and in a competitive position in their market. Utilizing all facets of technology, software and data is critical for all managers to have a complete understanding. Each department no matter how small services the process of the operation of the entire organization. Technology in Client/ Server can assist in process improvements that can allow people to expand into new positions and provide more value-added service to the company. “Kevin Winters manager of network services at western resources improved the printing process of the company by more effectively sharing printers saving the company an estimated $300,00.00 dollars.” “Winters is replacing fax machines with fax servers reducing phone lines and freeing up employees, reducing the amount of paper and supplies used.”23 Software management is a vital important component for having and managing a Client/ Server network. Establishing company software platforms and inventorying the software in house can save accompany money in copyright infringements. Often there are multiple versions of software that are running in an organization and this can lead to unproductive time in transferring information. Employees often take a hard copy of the material and redo the entire document to move from one brand of software to another. Uniformity is a simple management tool that will provide a value-added benefit by reducing cost and even potentially increasing production. Inventorying software needs, can provide the company with the opportunity to
consider site license purchases of upgrades to current software that could provide significant savings in software cost. There are a variety of companies that provide consultation services that can assist in evaluating your current system and find methods for maximizing the current technology and integrating newer forms of technology to improve the work flow in the organization. Specialty services include WEB development, and maintenance of the WEB site. There are systems maintenance and management services that will keep your system maintained changing passwords, user rights and data controls.
Applications that are best suited for Client/ Server environments are financial systems, project management, data warehousing, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Expert Systems. â€œBusiness intelligence is the new buzz word used to describe the gathering, management, analysis, and distribution of data. The idea is to allow users to extract knowledge from internal and external databases and then apply that intelligence to make strategic decisions, improve marketing, target customers and otherwise improve the bottom line. The applications that run from complex data warehouses to single subject data marts coupled with sophisticated data mining techniques to online analytical processing analysis.â€?24 Major companies are interested in assisting businesses in managing and collecting their data as shown in chart25 the Client/ Server provides a common platform for data to be accessed. Companies that have over time used multiple resources to produce data can pool data from other program platforms and read the data in a transparent manner not needing a specific program to view the data. Data warehousing is a tool to assist
companies in analyzing and identifying key relationships in the corporate data. “Once a day, an employee at each office dials in via modem to the InterBase database running the back-office management application at headquarters. The client application and the main database exchange information, automatically centralizing all crucial management information while distributing any new data pertinent to the operations of the branch offices. Keith Gilbert Labor Ready Inc.”26 “Midsize business looking to invest in enterprise resource planning software face a tough choice. Should they select a traditional middle market vendor that truly understands their needs but may lack the resources to continually improve their product? Or should they go with one of the big-name ERP players, whose product, while backed by stronger financial support may be considerably more expensive and complicated to implement?”27 Managing a company’s Inventory, cost accounting and purchasing deals with the center of the companies financial abilities to operate. ERP systems are critical for organizations to maintain control over the management of these and other critical areas that the company primarily depends on for its operations.
Chart28 “Enterprise Resource planning packages are evolving into corporate ecosystems, affecting business and technology decisions that transcends the software. ERP systems are not only a key factor in the process of reengineering, but they are also influencing the supply-chain partnering, management restructuring, and other strategic initiatives. A company’s ERP software choice is also having a ripple
effect on application development, network infrastructure, database, decision support and other key technology decisions.”29 Computers are an investment that is hard to generate hard return on investment. Implementing a new print server that eliminates devices has dramatic cost savings that are easily reaped from the implementation. Improvement of process might have an implementation period and a training period that increases the cost yet over a projected 18 months to three year the return is potentially significant into high returns on the investment. To spend the time actually tracking the outcome might not be financially prudent. It is important that as a manager there is a planned period of time that shows an analysis has been completed to determine the need for the implementation or expansion of a Client/ Server application or network. Leveraging The New Infrastructure by Peter Weill and Marianne Broadbent is a new book released in 1998 that all managers at any level in any phase of the organization should utilize to prepare for investing in technology in a company. “There are four types of information technology investment in the portfolio-strategic, informational, transactional, and infrastructure- have different impacts on business value and thus have different risk-return profiles and are effectively different investment classes.” “Unfortunately there is little reliable information about payoff on information technology investment in any firm or group of firms.” 30 Weill & Broadbent have several tools for assisting in analyzing and planning implementation feasibility plans that are included in the appendix. Using these tools effectively will require acquiring the text but they do provide the ability to assist in a direction to start for planning and analyzing IT cost. Client/ Server is an investment that varies in the degree of sophistication used to connect the PC’s together. In a Peer-to-Peer network the company might current have the PC computers so to purchase the Network adapter card and the cables is a minimal investment to have the benefits of a Client/ Server network. PC cost range from $900.00 to $3,000.00 Dollars. If you are
purchasing computers to start a Peer-to Peer network it is important to have a least one powerful PC on the network that the others share resources from to maintain as much speed on the network. Dedicated Client/ Server systems start at file Servers ranging from $3,500.00 to $30,000.00 dollars. The work stations range from Fat Clients, which are PC computers with large processing power, large amount of memory on the motherboard, and large hard drive capacity. This is necessary depending on the client application and needs to be carefully looked at when planning a Client/ Server System. Thin Clients are machines that are similar to the old Dumb Terminal used on a main frame computer. The Thin PC has little on board features and little to no storage capacity. The machine solely depends on the server to perform its computing and processing task. Many businesses are utilizing a combination of hardware configurations including Mini and Mainframe servers integrated into a PC network as discussed earlier. “Because thin clients lack features such as a hard disk and can be centrally managed, These machines are cheaper to buy and operate. The total cost of ownership is estimated to produce a 24% to 31% savings over five years.” 31The cost of using a mini or mainframe is subject to current demands of the network system and if the company has these devices currently in service. Training is an ongoing expense that is vital for employees to effectively maximize the use of the tool that the company provides them through the use of a computer. Getting adequate training that benefit the company is difficult. Grouping employees on site with a consultant on a regular schedule for short duration’s in a day will more likely improve employee’s retention then sending them off site for day or multiple day training. Saturation and information overload are common in these type of training sessions and employees need the time to experiment with live need use applications to their job. The consultant cost might be more up front yet it will improve
the immediate production in the work of the employee. Most implementations try to minimize the training component when new systems are installed. The idea often touted is the employees will learn, as they need to know. This does occur no matter the level of training that you do or do not provide. Training usually provides a broad overview of the capabilities that the new system provides and specific details to your companies demands and needs. Implementing Technology in Client/ Server requires designating existing employees or hiring new employees to provide administrative and maintenance support to the network. IT departments are created in larger firms and retain people on salary to manage the computer system. Outsourcing is a common and often cost effective method for managing and maintaining your companies computer system. With the dramatic advances that are occurring in technology IT professionals need constant training to maintain knowledge of the systems and the software that is currently being used and updated. Cost for in house IT should consider the training component and the time away while the IT person is in training and the system is exposed with no support. Outsourcing might also be a consideration for specialized applications or even design
and maintaining the companies Web site. The time for design and then constant updating of a Web site has caused many companies to outsource this part of their computer needs.32 Cost considerations must consider the standard, Reliability- unplanned down time, Availability- planned downtime backups, Scalability and Contingency plans. Client/ Server Networks are very conducive to all of these cost components yet there are management issues that do increase the cost on a Client/ Server that may not be as labor intensive on a a mini and mainframe computers system. The upgrades for Client/ Server can very inf a fat client of a thin client. Thin clients are more cost effective due to upgrading for speed and power can occur at the server level providing tremendous savings on hardware costs. Software can increase in cost if not managed well on a Client/ Server system. The Licensing of software is a difficult management issue on a network with fat clients. Keeping unlicensed software and software version consistency is difficult and near impossible, unless there is a corporate mandate that is from the top down with serious consequences and consistency of enforcement. Software licensing can be done as a site which provides a company considerable savings. The current trends in Client/ Server systems are increased Internet, Intranet, Web Deployments, E-Commerce, App Server, Data warehousing, and ERP. â€œThroughout the 1980s and 1990s transactions processed electronically has been opening more and more through the increased use of electronic data interchange, (EDI) and payment systems. Transactions are handled directly through the computer to computer links. Electronic Commerce (EC) has emerged as the umbrella term for all these developments.â€?33 New technologies in fiber optics for data transmission, faster hardware and communications devices will continue to unfold new opportunities that only the imagination might be capable of seeing. Outsourcing will continue to be in high demand as the increase and change of technology will make it to expensive not to
outsource and lease services to provide hardware, software and support to maintain the flow of information in business. â€œWith Silicon, Software and bandwidth whipping through our business infrastructure.â€?34 Mangers need to be much more online with what is necessary for them to maintain appropriate technology to assist their organization in being in the global business environment of today.
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