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From Chapter Two: The appliance computing culture

This is the 22nd excerpt from the second book in the Defen series: BIT: Business Information Technology: Foundations, Infrastructure, and Culture

Note that the section this is taken from, on the evolution of appliance computing, includes numerous illustrations and note tables omitted here.

The iSeries data center tour

This is a tour of a data center built around an IBM iSeries mini-computer. The important things to note here are:

  1. How much smaller and more focused this is than the mainframe data center seen earlier;

  2. The degree of centralized processing control;

  3. The focus on delivering packaged applications with only minor local tweaking; and,

  4. The high reliability, and relatively low overall cost, of the system.

The Applications

The Windows set-up for finance and marketing runs the usual suite of Microsoft applications including Office Products, a client database on SQL-Server, and a locally built sales contact management application.

Email and related collaboration is handled, company wide, through Lotus Domino running on the iSeries.

The iSeries runs the following major business applications, all selected as best of breed packages from major vendors and installed as the company grew over a twenty year period:

  1. Core financials including Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, General Ledger, Credit Management, EFT, and Payroll/HR;

  2. Inventory Management including receiving (barcode), reconciliation, load management, and RF placement/picking;

  3. Purchasing, including supply chain automation and custom interfaces to several major suppliers;

  4. Manufacturing, Shop Floor Control Production Scheduling including order entry and job costing with interfaces to purchasing and inventory management;

  5. Contact Management including Conditional Emailing, CRM/Sales Force Automation, and,

  6. Retail Point-of-sale support including supply management.

The company currently has a major commitment to a project aimed at replacing the customer site systems, which were put in place the late eighties and early nineties to facilitate customer supply management, with a 2nd generation web based e-commerce collaboration suite. Plans call for development to use IBM's Web Sphere components and initial work has begun.

In addition, there are several dozen special purpose database or interface applications that were developed or acquired to solve specific problems. Some of these are fifteen years old but continue to run, essentially unchanged, because they still meet some business need.

Some notes:

  1. These excerpts don't (usually) include footnotes and most illustrations have been dropped as simply too hard to insert correctly. (The wordpress html "editor" as used here enables a limited html subset and is implemented to force frustrations like the CPM line delimiters from MS-DOS).

  2. The feedback I'm looking for is what you guys do best: call me on mistakes, add thoughts/corrections on stuff I've missed or gotten wrong, and generally help make the thing better.

    Notice that getting the facts right is particularly important for BIT - and that the length of the thing plus the complexity of the terminology and ideas introduced suggest that any explanatory anecdotes anyone may want to contribute could be valuable.

  3. When I make changes suggested in the comments, I make those changes only in the original, not in the excerpts reproduced here.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.