Enterprise Systems Planning 




To many people who read the literature on the benefits of the client-server world, the driving force is the expectation of a significant reduction in information processing costs. In many cases this is true when measured by the industry standard of cost per transaction-per-second or TPS. There are other issues how-

ever that may well be just as important. Giving users tools and training to make them responsible for their own data has signifi­cant long-range implications. Two of the most important of these are users being able to view and extract data as they need them without lots of technical support. The second is they can get to the data when they need it.

The key to understanding client-server is how the work is separated. The user interface and application software reside in the front-end desktop machine, the client. The database, its utilities and mass disk storage reside on the back-end processor, the server. This permits certain workstations to be dedicated to one function on a network, while accessing a common database. The basic logic is that the workstations and PCs can execute parts of the application and the server, through a network, executes the rest of the transaction including updating the database (see Figure 2). This is much more efficient than a centralized host that had to do all the work. However, even early versions of client-server had limitations as to the number of servers that could be accessed, and how easily and efficiently they could access a single database across multiple servers.

The technology has now progressed where these and other barriers have been overcome. Lets look at the state of the art in enterprise computing.

The Way It Is

There are two major segments to the new enterprise view. The first deals with the database and its supporting technology. The second deals with user tools to access and manipulate that database. Let's look at the first part.

Relational database systems (RDBs) have been developed to the point where parts of a database may reside on several servers. There are utilities that can locate the needed pieces as desired and report on them. For example, purchasing information may be on one system, the vendor data on another, and the required part specifications on a third. We can now print a purchase order to the correct vendor and attach the image of the specification. Storing and moving images of drawings or other graphics is the same as storing and moving data in an RDB system. A page of graphics will take much more storage than a page of text, however, the ability to electronically store and update graphics as easily as text is compelling. Relational databases have the ability to know when a transaction did not fully execute to completion. When this occurs, the database will undo the partial transaction and restore the database to the original state. This advance in data integrity is particularly significant when you consider that a transaction may need to update more than one database on more than one machine.

Today, a modern distributed information systems environment is not limited to just accessing its own database. It is not unusual for the system to house two or more foreign databases that can be accessed using standard interface utilities and a standard query language. This permits enterprises to transfer, or port, their databases to different hardware platforms over a reasonable period of time and still maintain access to the data.

Finally, one of the newest advantages is the ability to take advantage of parallel processor machines. They are machines that have more than one CPU processor. In addition to reducing the incremental cost of upgrading hardware by just adding a processor instead of a whole system when you need more power, the database will function quite well if one of the processors becomes inoperative, albeit more slowly. Further, they can process memory-intensive work faster such as graphics or mathematical problems. They do this by dividing the tasks to done in parallel rather than serially.

To be Continued


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