DATA ADMINISTRATION AND THE INTERNET
A Critical Contribution for the Future
By Clive Finkelstein, Managing Director
Copyright © 1996 - 1998 Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd.
Clive Finkelstein - "Data
Administration and the Internet"
We are all used to working in an environment of change, but the pace of
change in the IT industry today is unprecedented! It affects all areas and in turn - other
industries. The catalyst of this change is the Internet and the new opportunities that it
presents. What does this mean to organizations that must still operate in this period of
rapid change? How can you plan? What direction should you take? What technologies and
products will survive, and which ones will disappear? And what impact do these changes
have on the role of Data Administrator?
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In the IT industry our managers look for the next silver bullet to help them
overcome the impact of technology change. Does the answer lie with GUIs, or CASE tools, or
Open Systems, or Standards, or High-Speed Networks? Is the answer Client/Server, or Data
Warehouse, or BPR, or Repositories, or Business Rules? Or is it O-O (whether O-O analysis,
or design or programming - take your choice)?
The answer is all of these
and none of them! There is no silver bullet!
For we are now seeing a fundamental change in the rules that we have previously relied
upon to plan our future directions. I refer of course to the Internet.
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Consider the changes that the Internet has wrought since early 1995, and
particularly in the last few years
- Web browsers are now available for any platform and operating system, based on an
open architecture interface using HyperText Markup Language (HTML).
- The release of the Java language by Sun, with Java code (as applets) now able to
be automatically downloaded from Web servers to execute on a browser running as a Web
client. Java is a platform-independent language which is interpreted as byte code by the
browser, so providing an open architecture environment for the execution of Java applets
(see Figure 1).
- The growing acceptance by the industry of Java as a mainstream language: not just
for applets on web clients but also for web servers, data base servers; and soon also as a
complete development language in the operating system - coming to Windows, OS/2 and Apple
Mac OS. Many development tools are emerging for Java with "just-in-time"
compilers to improve execution performance, such as: Borland Latte, Symantec Cafe and
Visual Café and Microsoft Visual J++.
Figure 1: Java applets are compiled to byte code and are referenced by the
HTML web pages that use them. Both reside on the web server, ready to be downloaded when
requested by a web client. The Java code is executed as interpreted code on the client, or
instead as compiled code using a "just-in-time" compiler operating as the Java
byte code is downloaded to the client.
(Diagram © 1996 IDG Communications, Inc from an article in Infoworld.)
- Microsoft attempted to use their dominant desktop market share to establish
Visual Basic (VB) Script as a competitor to Java. A similar attempt was made by Netscape,
with their share of the browser market, to achieve standardisation by the IT industry on
the impetus behind Java gives them no alternative but to provide inter-operability between
- Most DBMS products are now moving to use Java and HTML: to accept input as HTML
direct from Web forms, then carry out relevant DBMS queries and generate dynamic HTML Web
pages to provide output in response. DBMS products to provide this capability include:
DB2, Oracle, Sybase, SQL Server, DB2, CA-OpenIngres and Informix.
- Client/Server development tools are also moving to Java, with transparent access
to the Internet and corporate Intranets by applications built using these tools:
generating dynamic HTML output to display transaction results. Vendors are developing new
tools to provide this capability, with backward compatibility for applications using their
earlier tools. Products include: Powersoft Optima++ (with compatibility for Powerbuilder);
Centura (previously Gupta - with compatibility for SQLWindows); and Borland Latte (with
backward compatibility also for Delphi and C++).
- Data Warehouse products are emerging with an internet interface, accepting HTML
input and generating HTML output. And Data Mining and Screen Scraper tools that provide
GUI interfaces for Legacy Systems are also becoming internet-aware. Some now accept 3270
I/O data streams and dynamically translate them to, or from, HTML to display on the
screen; thus they provide a transparent HTML interface for easy migration of 3270
mainframe legacy systems to the Internet and corporate Intranets.
- The Internet is based on the TCP/IP communications protocol and Domain Naming
System (DNS). Novell, Microsoft and other network vendors now realise TCP/IP is also
becoming the network protocol standard for the corporate Intranet and Dynamic Domain
Naming System (DDNS) is now a transparent Internet / Intranet Network Directory Services
standard. The communications standards used for the Internet thus also become part of the
corporate Intranet. This enables low-cost Virtual Private Networks to be established using
the Internet as the backbone, or high bandwidth will continue to be provided using
dedicated private networks as part of the Intranet.
The pace of change over the last few years, brought about by the Internet, has
been unprecedented in our industry. In turn, the Internet and the IT industry are bringing
change to many other industries.
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Consider now BPR and the percentage of BPR projects that have failed: generally
acknowledged to be 60% - 70%!!! (Of course, an optimist might say that 30% - 40% have
succeeded!) In a previous article "Business Re-Engineering: Three Steps to
Success" in the Jan/Feb 1994 issue of the Data Base Newsletter, I
discussed some of the reasons for this high failure rate
Many BPR projects have focused only on processes - ignoring the business plans
on which those processes depend, and the business information needed to support
decision-making. To re-engineer business processes no longer required because of changed
strategic plans is an exercise in futility! My earlier Newsletter articles discussed that
the three steps to BPR success ensured that Business Processes and Business Information
both supported the Business Plans set for the organisation (see Figure 2). This is also
available as a single article titled "Business
Re-Engineering: Three Steps to Success" and can be read online, or can be
downloaded as a Word 6.0 document from the IES web site "White Papers" as
Figure 2: Business Processes and Business Information must both support the
Business Plans that are set for the organisation.
Business Re-Engineering (BRE) is a superset of Business Process Reengineering
(BPR). It structures Business Plans, Business Information and Business Processes so that
they are mutually supportive. But to achieve this requires a partnership between the
Business and Data Administration.
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The Role of the Data Administrator
The only thing stable today
is CHANGE itself. Organizations must
therefore structure themselves to respond rapidly to change. They must above all change to
a market-driven and customer-driven focus, rather than be organization-driven or
product-driven as in the past. New business process opportunities can emerge from this
customer-oriented focus, with new processes crossing previous functional boundaries. These
cross-functional processes can lead to dramatic breakthroughs with re-engineered business
But if you have redundant data, you also have redundant processes to maintain
each of those redundant data versions up-to-date. When your data is structured
non-redundantly, many of these redundant processes disappear. The way an organization
operates when it must keep all of those redundant data versions up-to-date and consistent
is quite different from the way it should operate with only one valid version of data:
which, when updated, is available to all who are authorized to access it.
The Data Administrator's role is vital in achieving integrated, non-redundant
data bases that can be shared throughout the enterprise. This in turn leads to simpler
business processes, with re-engineered cross-functional processes that focus on customers
- and that can take advantage of the new business opportunities that emerge from a
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What does this mean, when we also consider the Internet? Its impact on business
processes - with instant access to customers and suppliers - is documented in the paper: "Business Re-Engineering and the Internet: Transforming
Business for a Connected World". This is an update of the earlier paper
referenced above, to reflect the effect of the Internet and Intranets.
Most DBMS and Client/Server Development tools will interface directly and
transparently with the Internet and Intranet. Web browsers, Java, HTML, the Internet and
Intranet all provide an open-architecture interface for most operating system platforms.
Previous incompatibilities between operating systems, DBMS products, client/server
products, LANs, WANs and EDI will disappear - replaced by an open architecture environment
based on HTML and Java.
The open-architecture environment enjoyed by the audio industry - where any CD
or tape will run on any player, which can be connected to any amplifier and speakers - has
long been the holy grail of the IT industry. Finally, once the industry has made the
transition over the next few years to the open-architecture environment brought about by
Internet and Intranet technologies, we will be close to achieving that holy grail !!!
The client software will be the web browser, operating as a "fat"
client by automatically downloading Java code when needed. Client/server tools will
typically offer two options, each able to be executed by any terminal which can run
browsers or HTML-aware code:
- Transaction processing using client input via web forms, with dynamic HTML web
pages presenting output results in a standard web browser format, or
- Transaction processing using client input via client/server screens, with
designed application-specific output screens built by client/server development tools.
This optional client environment will recognise HTML, dynamically translating and
presenting that output using the designed application-specific screens.
These client/server development tools will provide transparent access to data
base servers using HTML-access requests, whether accessing operational data or Data
Warehouses. In turn the data base servers will process these requests - transparently
using conventional languages, or Java, to access new or legacy data bases as relevant.
These may be separate servers, or instead may be mainframes executing legacy systems.
Web servers will then operate as application servers, executing Java code or
conventional code as part of the middle-tier of three-tier client/server logic
distribution, with data base servers also executing Java code or conventional code as the
third logic tier.
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Development will be easier: many of the incompatibilities we previously had to
deal with will be a thing of the past. Open architecture development using the
technologies of the Internet will also be part of the Intranet: able to use any PC and any
hardware, operating system, DBMS, network, client/server tool or Data Warehouse. This
will be the direction that the IT industry will take for the foreseeable future.
New reengineering opportunities will emerge from immediate access to customers
and suppliers via the Internet. But this also means that the chaos of redundant data
that exists in most enterprises
will now be visible to the world! This will be
apparent from the front window of each organization's web site. Not by what can be done,
but rather by what they cannot do when compared with their competitors.
So how should your organization operate when your customers have immediate
access with the click of a mouse to you
and to your competitors? If your
organization cannot meet the needs of those customers, they will leave you just as fast -
also with a click of a mouse
and go to your competitors!
Hardware, software, networks and the IT industry are all rushing to embrace the
Internet and Intranets. What is the next silver bullet? Is it an: Object-Oriented, BPR,
Open, CASE, GUI, Client / Server, Repository of Networked Business Rules Data Warehouse
Or is the next silver bullet Data Administration? If so, we had better start
getting our organizational house in order NOW !!! The role of Data Administration has
never been so important for success in business as it will be in the coming competitive
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