Chapter 4 IT Infrastructure and Platforms

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1 Chapter 4 IT Infrastructure and Platforms Essay Questions: 1. Identify and describe the stages of IT infrastructure evolution. 2. Identify and describe the technology drivers of IT infrastructure evolution. 3. Identify and describe the seven major IT infrastructure components. List at least three major vendors within each component category. 4. Briefly explain why corporations are increasingly interested in using Unix or Linux for their operating system. 5. Distinguish between grid computing, edge computing, on-demand computing, and autonomic computing. 6. Identify and describe the four major themes in contemporary software platforms. 7. Web services communicate through XML messages over standard protocols. Distinguish between Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) 8. The objective of infrastructure management is to provide a coherent and balanced set of computer-based services to customers, employees, and suppliers. Identify issues that a firm must deal with to meet this objective. 9. Evaluate the challenges of managing IT infrastructure and management solutions. 10. What is scalability? Why is it essential to the success of the modern business firm? 90

2 Answers of Essay Questions: 1. Identify and describe the stages of IT infrastructure evolution. The five eras are automated special-purpose machines, general-purpose mainframe and minicomputer computing, personal computers, client/server networks, and enterprise and Internet computing. a) IT infrastructure in the earliest stage ( ) consisted of specialized electronic accounting machines that were primitive computers used for accounting tasks. b) IT infrastructure in the mainframe era (1959 to present) consists of a mainframe performing centralized processing that could be networked to thousands of terminals and eventually some decentralized and departmental computing using networked minicomputers. c) The personal computer era (1981 to present) in IT infrastructure has been dominated by the widespread use of standalone desktop computers and office productivity tools. d) The predominant infrastructure in the client/server era (1983 to present) consists of desktop or laptop clients networked to more powerful server computers that handle most of the data management and processing. e) The enterprise Internet computing era (1992 to present) is defined by large numbers of PCs linked into local area networks and growing use of standards and software to link disparate networks and devices linked into an enterprise-wide network so that information can flow freely across the organization. 2. Identify and describe the technology drivers of IT infrastructure evolution. a) Moore s Law deals with the exponential increase in processing power and decline in the cost of computer technology, stating that every 18 months the power of microprocessors doubles and the price of computing falls in half. b) The Law of Mass Digital Storage deals with the exponential decrease in the cost of storing data, stating that the number of kilobytes of data that can be stored on magnetic media for $1 roughly doubles every 15 months. c) Metcalfe s Law helps explain the mushrooming use of computers by showing that a network s value to participants grows exponentially as the network takes on more members. d) Declining communications cost and the Internet are also driving the explosion of computer use. The rapid decline in costs of communication and growing agreement in the technology industry to use computing and communications standards are driving the explosion of computer use. 3. Identify and describe the seven major IT infrastructure components. List at least three major vendors within each component category. a) Internet Platforms (Apache, Microsoft IIS,.NET, Unix, Cisco, Nortel, Java) b) Computer Hardware Platforms (Dell, IBM, Sun, HP, Apple, Linux machines) c) Operating Systems Platforms (Microsoft Windows, Unix, Linux, Mac OS X) d) Enterprise Software Applications (including middleware, SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Microsoft, BEA) 91

3 e) Network/Telecommunications (Microsoft Windows Server, Linux, Novell, Cisco, Lucent, Nortel, MCI, ATT, Verizon) f) Consultants and System Integrators (IBM, KPMG, Accenture, Capgemini) g) Data Management and Storage (IBM DB2, Oracle, SQL Server, Sybase, MYSQL, EMC Systems) 4. Briefly explain why corporations are increasingly interested in using Unix or Linux for their operating system. Linux is an inexpensive and robust open-source relative of Unix. Unix and Linux constitute the backbone of corporate infrastructure throughout much of the world because they are scalable, reliable, and much less expensive than mainframe operating systems. They can also run on many different types of processors. The major providers of Unix operating systems are IBM, HP, and Sun with slightly different and partially incompatible versions. Although Windows continues to dominate the client marketplace, many corporations have begun to explore Linux as a low-cost desktop operating system provided by commercial vendors such as RedHat Linux and Linux-based desktop productivity suites such as Sun s StarOffice. Linux is also available in free versions downloadable from the Internet as open-source software. The rise of open-source software, particularly Linux and the applications it supports at the client and server level, has profound implications for corporate software platforms: cost, reduction, reliability and resilience, and integration, because Linux works on all the major hardware platforms from mainframes to servers to clients. Linux has the potential to break Microsoft s monopoly on the desktop. Sun s StarOffice has an inexpensive Linux-based version that competes with Microsoft s Office productivity suite. 5. Distinguish between grid computing, edge computing, on-demand computing, and autonomic computing. a) Grid computing involves connecting geographically remote computers into a single network to create a computational grid that combines the computing power of all the computers on the network with which to attack large computing problems. b) Edge computing balances the processing load for Web-based applications by distributing parts of the Web content, logic, and processing among multiple servers. c) On-demand computing also depends on networks for firms to purchase additional processing power from large computer service firms and to have that power delivered when they need it over a network. 6. Identify and describe the four major themes in contemporary software platforms. a) Growing use of Linux and open-source software open-source software is produced and maintained by a global community of programmers and is downloadable for free. Linux is a powerful, resilient open-source operating system that can run on multiple hardware platforms and is used widely to run Web servers. b) Java is an operating-system and hardware-independent programming language that is the leading interactive programming environment for the Web. c) Web services and service-oriented architecture software for enterprise integration includes enterprise applications and middleware such as enterprise application integration 92

4 (EAI) software and Web services. Unlike EAI software, Web services are loosely coupled software components based on open Web standards that are not product-specific and can work with any application software and operating system. They can be used as components of Web-based applications linking the systems of two different organizations or to link disparate systems of a single company. d) Software outsourcing companies are purchasing their new software applications from outside sources, including application software packages, by outsourcing custom application development to an external vendor (that may be offshore), or by renting software services from an application service provider. 7. Web services communicate through XML messages over standard protocols. Distinguish between Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) a) Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is a set of rules for structuring messages that enables applications to pass data and instructions to one another. b) Web Services Description Language (WSDL) is a common framework for describing the tasks performed by a Web service and the commands and data it will accept so that it can be used by other applications. c) Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) enable a Web service to be listed in a directory of Web services so that it can be easily located. 8. The objective of infrastructure management is to provide a coherent and balanced set of computer-based services to customers, employees, and suppliers. Identify issues that a firm must deal with to meet this objective. To obtain this objective a firm must deal with the following series of issues: a) Cost of IT infrastructure b) Integration of information, applications, and platforms. c) Flexibility to respond to business environments. d) Resilience e) Service levels 9. Evaluate the challenges of managing IT infrastructure and management solutions. Major infrastructure challenges include: a) Making wise infrastructure investments b) Choosing and coordinating infrastructure components c) Dealing with infrastructure change d) Agreeing on infrastructure management and governance Solution guidelines include: a) Using a competitive forces model to determine how much to spend on IT infrastructure and where to make strategic infrastructure investments b) Starting out new infrastructure initiatives with small experimental pilot projects c) Establishing the total cost of ownership (TOC) of information technology assets. 93

5 10. What is scalability? Why is it essential to the success of the modern business firm? Scalability is the ability of the computer, product, or system to expand to survey larger number of users without breaking down. It is important because as firms grow, they can quickly outgrow their infrastructure. As firms shrink, they can get stuck with excessive infrastructure purchased in better times. Any modern company must be able to make plans for the future, even though that future may be different than what was expected. Computer equipment is expensive, though dropping in price, and budgets must be planned to allow for new purchases, upgrades, and training. It is generally assumed that a successful company will need more computer capacity for more people as it follows a path to continued success. 94

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