Enterprise-wide DSS have interconnected servers, databases and workstations. In many DSS development situations an existing corporate network is used as part of the DSS architecture. In this situation the network must be examined to make sure it meets present and future DSS traffic needs. Also, the trend is toward Internet and intranet based DSS that are accessed from a browser that is connected to a Web server using the TCP/IP communications protocol.
This section summarizes a number of major issues in networking and computing communications that managers and DSS Analysts should be familiar with so they can participate in networking discussions with network technical specialists. The three major aims of this section are to:
1) Explain the basic concepts of networking,
2) Provide an explanation of what TCP/IP is and how it works,
3) Define some major networking terms.
A client/server architecture is based on having a physical network where computers act as either a server managing files and network services or as a client where users run applications and access servers. Clients rely on servers for resources like Web pages, data, files, printing and OLAP.
A network is a collection of computers connected in a way that allows them to communicate with each other and share information. To communicate the computers need an agreed upon language for communication. Networked computers are often referred to as hosts. Each host on a network must have some unique identifier that allows other hosts to communicate with it. Typical physical connections for hosts include Ethernet, token ring, serial line, and modems. Communication languages on computer networks are referred to as network protocols. A network protocol is a set of rules and formats that govern how information is sent and in what format it is sent. Some of the different network protocols used today include TCP/IP (Internet and UNIX), IPX (Novell), and Appletalk.
A number of technologies provide sharing of information, capabilities to distribute a Decision Support System, and communications connectivity. These technologies include the Internet, private Integrated Services Digital Networks (ISDN), and remote access dial-up servers. Broadband service is another form of data transmission that uses cable television coaxial and fiber optic cables. Currently, the favored technology for many new DSS is the Internet because it is inexpensive, it is low risk, and it is a mature technology. Managers, customers and suppliers can use a dial-up or high-speed modem to connect to an Internet service provider or to their main office intranet. A major concern with using the Internet for DSS is managing security problems.