The networking infrastructure in a large enterprise with multiple computer systems and networks of different types is extraordinarily complex. Due to the myriad interfaces that are required, much of what goes on has little to do with the real data processing of the payroll and orders. An enormous amount of effort goes into planning the integration of disparate networks and systems and managing them, and, planning again for yet more interfaces as marketing pressures force vendors to develop new techniques that routinely change the ground rules.
Application Development/Configuration Management
There are a large number of programming languages and development tools for writing today's applications. Each development system has its own visual programming interface for building GUI front ends and its own fourth-generation language (4GLs) for doing the business logic. Programmers are always learning new languages to meet the next generation.
Traditional programming has given way to programming for graphical user interfaces and object-oriented methods, two technologies with steep learning curves for the traditional programmer.
Programming managers are responsible for maintaining legacy systems in traditional languages while developing new systems in newer languages. They must also find ways to keep track of all the program modules and ancillary files that make up an application when several programmers work on a project. Stand-alone version control and configuration management programs handle this, and parts of these systems are increasingly being built into the development systems themselves (see configuration management
Like all software, a database management system (DBMS) must support the hardware platform and operating system it runs in. In order to move a DBMS to another platform, a version must be available for the new hardware and operating system. The common database language between client and server is SQL, but each DBMS vendor implements its own rendition of SQL, requiring a special SQL interface to most every DBMS.
Database administrators must select the DBMS or DBMSs that efficiently process the daily transactions and also provide sufficient horsepower for decision support. They must decide when and how to split the operation into different databases, one for daily work, the other for ad hoc queries. They must also create the structure of the database by designing the record layouts and their relationships to each other.
Operating systems are the master control programs that run the computer system. Single-user operating systems, such as Windows and Mac, are used in the clients, and multiuser network operating systems, such as Windows, Linux and Unix, are used in the servers. Windows is the clear winner on the desktop, but Windows and Linux compete with each other for the server side.
The operating system sets the standard for the programs that run under it. The choice of operating system combined with the hardware platform determines which ready-made applications can be purchased to work on it.
Systems programmers and IT managers must determine when newer versions of operating systems make sense and plan how to integrate them into existing environments.
Since the late 2000s, smartphones and tablets have become extensions of the company's local network and have dramatically increased the number of platforms and complexity network administrators deal with on a day-to-day basis. In a large enterprise, users may employ Apple iOS, Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry devices, all of which hook into the corporate network. Mobile security is a growth industry!
Communications protocols determine the format and rules for how the transmitted data are framed and managed from the sending station to the receiving station. Exchanging data and messages between PCs, Macs, mainframes and Unix servers used to mean designing networks for a multiprotocol environment. Today, enterprises have migrated their proprietary protocols (IBM's SNA, Apple's AppleTalk, Novell's IPX/SPX, Microsoft's NetBEUI) to the Unix-based TCP/IP protocol, which is the transport of the Internet.
Transmission from station to station within a LAN is performed by the LAN access method, or data link protocol, which is almost always Ethernet. As traffic expands within an organization, higher bandwidth is required, causing organizations to plan for faster Ethernet connections (from 100 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps to 10,000 Mbps).
Repeaters, bridges, routers, gateways and switches are the devices used to extend, convert, route and manage traffic in an enterprise network, which is often as jammed as the Los Angeles freeways. Network administrators have to analyze current network traffic in light of future business plans and increasing use of Web pages, images and especially video. They have to determine when to increase network bandwidth while maintaining existing networks, which today have become the technical lifeblood of an enterprise.
Transmitting data to remote locations requires the use of private lines or public switched services offered by local and long distance carriers and Internet providers. A plethora of services have been available, most of which have coalesced into some form of third-party Internet connection using encrypted communications.
Network management is the monitoring and control of LANs and WANs from a central management console. It requires network management software, such as IBM's NetView and HP's OpenView. The Internet's SNMP has become the de facto standard management protocol, but there are many network management programs and options. For example, there are more than 30 third-party add-ons for HP's popular OpenView software.
Systems and Storage Management
Systems management includes a variety of functions for managing computers in a networked environment, including software distribution, version control, backup and recovery, printer spooling, job scheduling, virus protection and performance and capacity planning. Network management may also fall under the systems management umbrella.
Storage management has become critical for two reasons. First, there is an ever-increasing demand for storage due to the Internet, document management and data warehousing as well as increasing daily transaction volume in growing companies. Secondly, finding the time window in a 7x24 operation to copy huge databases for backup, archiving and disaster recovery has become more difficult.
All earlier mail systems have given way to Internet protocol-based email; however, some still remain within the enterprise. No matter which mail system is used, keeping the network safe from virus-laden attachments and preventing it from overloading because of spam is an ongoing challenge.
The Internet and Intranets
As if everything above is not enough to keep the technical staff busy, the World Wide Web came along in the mid-1990s with the force of a tornado, and nothing in the IT world would ever be the same. Today, the Internet sets many of the standards, and the browser has become an interface for accessing just about everything. Every component of system software from operating system to database management system, as well as every application on the market, was revamped in some manner to be Internet compliant. Today, almost every new application deals with the Internet in some manner.