Internetworking Infrastructure



Why Internetworking Matters to Business

Data Access.  In times of slow data transfer, it made sense to have distributed databases.  Each department might have customer records, or each mill might have a database, or each country might have a set of records.  But that meant that the same information might be in separate places (so each change in a customer’s address might have to be updated in multiple locations), and central planners had limited access to remote data.


Now it is practical to store all data in one location and access a single record from anywhere in the world.  That also means all data can be seen anywhere in the world.


Data transfer.  If data is run on multiple computers and stored in multiple databases, it might be in multiple formats.  If so, my computer might not be able to read and understand your customer record. 


Internetworking not only provides for fast transfer of data, it provides international standards for the format of data.  HTTP and XML are formatting standards that are universal.  That is why information transferred from all makes of computers can still be displayed clearly on your machine.


Data sharing:  If data can be transferred quickly and uniformly across long distances, then it is easier to share information with business partners.  Now supply chain projects are technically possible. 


Data accuracy/speed:  With the ability to know instantly when an order is received, or when an item has been taken out of inventory, managers can respond more quickly to fluctuations in business.  One important consequence is the need to hold less inventory (a.k.a. “safety stock”).  This reduces costs, while keeping production at levels to meet sales demand.



The Requisite Infrastructure for Internetworking


National/International Infrastructure

  1. An international agreement on how data should be transferred – TCP/IP.  (Thank the US Pentagon for funding this boon to world business).
  2. Fiber Optics for huge bandwidth transmission.  It also helps that we have an interstate highway system we can run the fiber along.  (Thank the breakup of the AT&T monopoly as a way of creating competition in this industry.)
  3. International agencies like ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to settle squabbles and distribute names.
  4. Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  The Internet has been private for over a decade.  Companies need to make a commercial gamble on providing data transfer and connections.


Organizational Infrastructure

  1. Local area networks.  Fortunately, we have a couple decades experience in moving data around the office.
  2. Routers.  A router connects a LAN to the Internet.  It watches the address on packets in circulation.  If the first three address segments match its own, it keep the message on the LAN.  If the address segments are different, it is sent off onto the Internet.
  3. Firewalls.  Various protection devices are essential, or no one would dare connect to a public network like the Internet.
  4. Servers.  Some device is needed to find information and move it around the organizational infrastructure.  These are basically middle systems between desktop “clients” and corporate databases or corporate mainframes.
  5. Backbone conduits.  These can be leased T-1 lines (1.5 million bps), or installed optical fiber running between buildings or across the nation.
  6. Databases.  Sooner or later we need a place to put information and get it back out.  Since this data is being updated in real time, these databases need to function at gigabit speeds.


Topic Questions

    1. How much of your organizational infrastructure do you know anything about?  Who is charged with maintaining this resource?  What authority is charged with approving changes/improvements in the infrastructure?  How do you know if they are doing their job?
    2. Postgirot seemed very inefficient since they added routers and other significant IT components in each functional area and for every new business process innovation.  Why would they do that?  Think back to our discussions of centralized and decentralized organizational structures.  Can you support the decision to decentralize routers?
    3. Think back to our discussions of CIOs and IT management.  If you were trying to prioritize the duties of a CIO, where would you put infrastructure management?