SmartAdvice: Craft A Data-Center SLA So It Meets Business Needs

Outsourcing data-center work lets staff focus on higher-value activities, but pay attention to business metrics when drafting the agreement, <B>The Advisory Council</B> says. Also, RSS may be a useful tool depending on your's company's industry; and expect staff cultural challenges when switching from mainframe based apps to client/server or Web-based applications.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

November 19, 2004

4 Min Read

Question C: How should we deal with the cultural and skill-set changes needed when moving from mainframe-based applications to client/server and Web-based applications?

Our advice: Expect cultural challenges among the management and technical advisory staff, the technical support and operations staff, and among the software developers as they become acclimated to new roles and concepts.

Management Tips Be sensitive to the possibility of five pre-existing mindsets as they might affect the selection process:

Moving from MVS to anything else is called "downsizing." Both Unix and Windows have demonstrated the ability to handle huge and equivalent transactional loads.

Moving from MVS means compromising availability. In fact, non-MVS systems can be configured for absolute availability, by which we mean around-the-clock transaction processing for multiple consecutive years, capable of surviving fire, flood, or terrorist attack without loss of service and without data corruption. The team should be open to a collection of different technical approaches used to achieve this result, such as clustering, storage networks, and rolling upgrades.

Moving from MVS means compromising security. Unix and Windows systems have often been configured to make access as easy as possible, and therefore vulnerable to hackers. Properly managed versions of Unix and Windows can be kept as secure as MVS.

Unix is more virtuous, because it's open. Windows is just as open, if you define open as permitting easy porting of applications across multiple hardware vendors.

Linux is free. Cost must be computed for the whole environment, including middleware, security, and system-management applications, which make the cost of Linux comparable with other alternatives.

Be aware of potential concerns staff members may have about losing their status because Window is easier to use and maintain than MVS. There are still specialized technical skills required in a Unix or Windows data-center environment, so while many users know how to install Windows, not many people know how to configure complexes of Unix or Windows systems for absolute availability, nor how to design tight security or maintain portal servers. We recommend you tell the technical staff early on that they will not lose their status.

Software Developers' Concerns They will face several issues, such as a) approaches to the enhancement of the new applications, b) development speed, c) the extent to which users are empowered to program independently, and d) perception of the human interface. With those in mind, consider these:

  • If your current MVS applications are more than five years old, there's a chance you've been making modifications directly into the vendor's code. You don't want to do that moving forward. Modern applications are written with clean interfaces that permit adding enhancements by surrounding the vendor's code (seen as a black box) with a periphery of objects of your own. This permits the easy installation of new releases of the vendor's application.

  • If your developers have been making modifications directly into aging code, they may be deliberate in their approach, yet the new tools allow cleaner objects around the periphery and will speed the pace of development. You may want to train a few of them in Rapid Iterative Prototyping techniques, and let the RIP team be a model for new request-to-production response times.

  • If your current applications are more than eight years old, a simple request for a new report becomes a developer issue. With the easy availability of multidimensional data stores and user-friendly report writers, developers should train users to do it themselves. You shouldn't encounter any job-protection reluctance. It should be noted that the potential for online analytical processing (OLAP) may bear on your technology decision, since OLAP is far less expensive in a Microsoft SQL Server environment.

  • If your company is ready to emerge from a human-interface system to one where each person has a personally customized cross-application interface, then this shift should be factored into the new application selection. In addition, the development staff should avoid retrofitting the portal technology at a later date.

-Wes Melling

Sanjay Anand,, TAC Expert, has more than 20 years of IT and business-process-management experience as a strategic adviser, certified consultant, speaker, and published author. More than 100 personal clients, large and small, have included companies from a diverse array of industries and geographies, from academia to technology and from Asia to the Americas. Often referred to as a "consultant's consultant" for training and mentoring skills. He is author of books "The Sarbanes-Oxley Guide for Finance and Information Technology Professionals" and "J.D. Edwards OneWorld: A Beginner's Guide."

John Sinclair, TAC Expert, has more than 26 years of experience spanning a variety of industries. His last 11 years have focused on process, project, and information management in consumer-goods and clinical-trials environments with experiences in document and content management, systems validation, FDA compliance issues, and 21CFR-11 legislation. His strengths include research and analysis and evaluating the business use of emerging technologies. He's certified as a Project Management Professional and is a graduate of the Society for Information Management's regional leadership program.

Wes Melling, TAC Expert, has more than 40 years of IT experience with a focus on enterprise IT strategies. He's founder and principal of Value Chain Advisors, a consulting boutique specializing in manufacturing supply-chain optimization. He's been a corporate CIO, a Gartner analyst, and a product strategist at increasingly senior levels.

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