From Chapter Three: The Windows Culture

The applications portfolio part of the tour.
Written by Paul Murphy, Contributor

This is the 33rd excerpt from the second book in the Defen series: BIT: Business Information Technology: Foundations, Infrastructure, and Culture

Note to readers: in reviewing this stuff myself I'm struck by both how much and how little has changed since 2002/3 (the date of this tour). I'm thinking this whole Wintel culture thing needs revision - and one of those revisions might be a second tour, focused on the situation in 2008/9. Comments on change would therefore be of particular interest.

The 2002/3 Windows data center tour

The Applications

Each sales office has a Windows 2003 Server which acts as the local file and print sharing solution while also running both Exchange and Outlook servers.

The primary Windows based applications in the sales offices are:

  1. 3278 emulation for mainframe application access;

  2. Microsoft Exchange and Outlook for email and scheduling;

  3. Microsoft Word for forms and document processing.

In addition the Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser is becoming increasingly important for things like access to the self service benefits management and compensation review facility; forms printing, and the collaborative communities initiative (CCI) currently under development using the Notes HTML client.

Headquarters operations have a different emphasis with more access to custom developed tools such as the analytical data warehouse, significantly more use of computational frameworks like Microsoft Excel, and use of tools like Microsoft Word for forms generation rather than just forms completion or printing.

There are about forty Windows 2003 servers dedicated to boot, file, and print services between the two headquarters buildings. In addition, there are dozens of custom applications that run on dedicated servers to perform special functions including customer information routing, statistical analysis, postage rate and addressing (zip codes) management, and a janitorial services tracking application with its own copy of SQL-Server.

However the universally deployed (at headquarters) server applications are:

  1. An internally developed data warehouse built using clustered SQL-Server and the BRIO business reporting client;

  2. An HR self-serve benefit application developed by consultants as an add-on to Peoplesoft HRMS for OS/390 using IIS on Windows 2000 Server;

  3. A Domino client handling the desktop components for a document imaging and workflow management package licensed from IBM (a Domino Skylight Service accessing an ImagePlus database running against DB2 under zOS); and,

  4. A high volume faxing application originally installed using Vsifax on an HP-UX machine but since converted to a rackmount of eight Windows 2000 machines running a product from Optus Software; and,

  5. A development project aimed at proving the utility of neural networking in policy risk assessment. This project, funded directly by the Office of the Chief Actuary, is not under the direct control of data center management although the research sponsor has agreed to having the data center install and operate the development systems.

The major current development initiatives out of the data center (late 2003) are aimed rolling out an integrated, company wide, identity management framework; at extending data warehouse access to selected sales offices and/or agencies; and, at integrating credit management with the sales quotation system.

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