Determining the technology to utilize is becoming an ever increasing challenge. At this stage, the team has just reached a decisive moment! Most of the activity from this point forward will depend on the selected technological environment. This puts a great deal of pressure on both the project team and the business clients to arrive at the proper technological solution. But before determining this, many team members may be asking questions which may not have easy answers. What are the technological choices, and what criteria should be used to select the best option for the business problem at hand? Which concerns should be closely examined in conjunction with making the environmental decisions? Do any "best" technological configurations exist? How much is all of this going to cost?
Obviously, more technological options exist than ever before, and seemingly endless business success stories can be found which appear support each. The more research the team does, the wider the range of choices which seem to be possible. In order to narrow down to a realistic set of alternatives for the current business situation, the team should reflect on some of the following questions:
1. What are the high level considerations which should be met by the proposed technological solution?
2. What are the overall long-term objectives of the proposed technological change?
Downsizing (from Mainframe and Mid-Range Computers)
These requirements are usually centered around migrating existing and new business applications from mainframes and mid-range computers to PC based client/server environments. In certain respects, this represents a second "systems building wave". With both the low cost, and the appealing user interface playing an important role in this movement, more and more organizations are considering this option.
Upsizing (from PCs and File Servers)
This situation tends to be the reverse of the earlier downsizing situation. In this case, a system has simply outgrown its current technological environment. In many cases, it may be a single business client, using a PC or file server, who has created an application which can no longer support the increased amount of business transaction volume. This situation usually calls for the "home grown" business application to be migrated from its current platform to either a client/server, mid-range, or mainframe based environment.
Rightsizing (mixing everything together!)
This is the option most organizations are taking by default. The large mainframe or mid-range based systems are remaining in place for the high transaction volume or the data intensive applications. The lower volume, more management/analysis centered applications, are moving to PCs, file servers, and true client/server platforms. This only makes sense; the PC centered systems are lower in cost, more flexible, have a greater user appeal, and can serve as stand-alone business analysis workstations which work with selected business information. In addition, the larger mainframes and mid-range machines are increasing able to take on the role of "superservers".
Selecting the Technological Environment
What actually determines the proper technological choice with the myriad of options which are available? The size of the organization and the annual information systems budget both play an important role in the narrowing the decision. The types of applications and the respective processing requirements are also important. One of the more critical factors is the level of sophistication possessed by the targeted business clients. These all impose a subtle influence on the selection process. But does anything more definitive exist?
Based on the requirements gathered to date, can a clear and reasonable choice be made which is grounded on sensible and defensible parameters? At most companies, the answer is - maybe! In some cases a substantial investment may have already been made in a specific technological platform, and it becomes the environment of choice by default. In other situations, a selected package or a needed interface may only work on a limited choice of equipment, or costs may dictate a certain level of allowable technological sophistication. But if these restrictions are not too great, and the decision will be based on clearly articulated criteria, consider some of the characteristics of the options which are currently available:
Mainframe computers have been the computing "workhorse" at many companies for years. In many instances, they have been the only source of processing power for everyone. However, with the advent of the personal computer, many of the more individualized business tasks have been "grown" on PCs and now would never be considered as mainframe application candidates. Still, some applications are still better suited as large scale mainframe applications and they should be developed on the platform. What does the future hold for mainframes in the face of advanced networking and client/ server computing? More than likely these are some of impacts which can be expected from the current advances in business technology processing:
When determining whether or not an application should be developed on a mainframe platform, a few important aspects of the environment should be considered:
Midrange computers have also been serving the needs of medium sized companies for years (for many of the same reasons as those listed above). In addition, many larger companies have consistently utilized midrange computers to handle their distributed processing needs. Given the current state of technological advancement, what are some of the selection considerations for this processing platform?
Mid-range computers will continue to gain favor as a good candidate for use as a super-server (especially in distributed processing situations).
According to the Microsoft Corporation, "Client/Server computing will probably become the predominate methodology for how multi-user business applications are built and deployed" in the future. Utilizing this technology, application processing is shared between the workstation based (client) part of the system and the "back room" server. The workstation generally handles the screen formatting tasks, possibly invoking a graphical user interface (GUI) approach, handles some application processing, and handles the database access invocation.
The local area network (LAN) based server, which will be in a back room (or under a desk) somewhere, generally handles the database management, data access, concurrency control, security, transaction logging, and database recovery functions.
Listed below are some of the considerations for utilizing a client/server based technical platform:
Some issues which are still a concern with some client/ server applications are listed below:
Within many organizations, the perpetuation of personal computers made life much easier, but it also created the need for file sharing capabilities. This demand resulted in the creation of centralized file servers to made word processing and spreadsheet file sharing more accessible to a significant numbers of business clients. In many cases, this file server approach is still all that is really required within a small organization to meet current data sharing and information access needs.
Stand-Alone Personal Computer
Listed below are some of the considerations for utilizing a stand alone PC:
The most significant issue is that non-centralized, non-integrated data "pockets" form throughout the company.