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
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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