IT architectures and computing infrastructures are evolving rapidly in corporations. In some companies, the IT infrastructure is being built in an ad hoc, uncoordinated, opportunistic manner. This approach is understandable given the rapid pace of technological change, but companies need much more than a "Web server here and a router there" approach to information technology architecture and networking. Managers need to take steps to design an infrastructure that 1) minimizes support costs and maximizes user productivity; 2) avoids system crashes and other performance problems; and 3) reduces infrastructure impediments that delay the deployment of new IS/IT applications, especially DSS. Networks are the critical element of the IT infrastructure that supports most Decision Support Systems.
According to Evans and Wurster in a 1997 Harvard Business Review article, the "rapid emergence of universal technical standards for communication, allowing everybody to communicate with everybody else at essentially zero cost, is a sea change." They note "It is easy to get lost in the technical jargon, but the important principle here is that the same technical standards underlie all the so-called Net technologies: the Internet, which connects everyone; extranets, which connect companies to one another; and intranets, which connect individuals within companies." Both managers and MIS staff need to understand the magnitude of this fundamental change in how we can communicate.
You may be asking how is the DSS architecture and IS/IT infrastructure related to networking and security issues. Part of a DSS architecture is the network design. Security issues for a DSS are impacted by architecture and network choices. These three topics are closely intertwined and are very important issues for building useful Decision Support Systems. Unless we build a DSS on a standalone computer in a secured office environment and keep the computer under the watchful eye of the manager who is using it, we will need to address DSS architecture, networking and security issues. If we want to design, develop and implement successful Decision Support Systems, then we need to understand these three fundamental technical topics.
This chapter explores the basics of DSS architecture, enterprise-wide networks and extranets, and security issues. The linkages among these issues are also explored.