Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Client/server Q&A

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Client/server Q&A

Article excerpt

PART 2

In last month's column, I introduced the discussion of client/server, defined as "an architecture for computing in which applications and/or data are split between intelligent client workstations and their servers (which can be other workstations, midrange computers or mainframes), interconnected by means of a network." I noted that its hallmark is much greater flexibility in the type of hardware/network configurations and software applications that were now made available to headquarters, remote and mobile employees. This month, we continue with our client/server questions and answers.

Q: I have a local area network (LAN). Does this mean I have client/server?

A: No. A LAN is a hardware technology that was originally designed to link standalone personal computers in a limited geographic area (typically building or campus) to share peripherals (e.g., printers) and software. Over time, LAN technology has evolved to support hundreds, if not thousands, of users over sometimes wide geographic distances by means of interlinked LANs and wide area networks (WANs). Most peripherals today and almost all software is specifically written to take advantage of LAN's processing capabilities.

Many of today's client/server implementations use a LAN as their core hardware technology since it has the three core building blocks: intelligent workstation, network and specialized servers. Thus, a LAN may provide the hardware infrastructure. However, client/server is fundamentally a software technology designed to split the actual application across the three components in such a way as to make optimum use of the processing characteristics of each: a graphical, user-friendly interface, high-speed connectivity and function-specific processing and storage capabilities.

Q: My folks tell me client/server will save me money. True?

A: There is still much debate about this in the industry. Certainly, in the short run, it is not true. Most companies will have to invest in equipment (servers and PCs) as well as talent to implement client/server. In the long run, the benefits to be derived include:

* greater productivity for the work force through superior interfaces;

* a potential reduction in the cost of maintaining systems due to the use of special programming tools and the fact that many of the updates can be done via table entries performed by users themselves;

* a reduction in the cost of developing new systems through the incorporation of off-the-shelf, PC software instead of writing code from scratch. For example, there is no longer a need for programmers to write code to do reports. Properly designed, a commercial report writer can be built into the client/server application, and the end users can create their own reports;

* a more manageable hardware budget, with increases in capacity linked more closely to particular software projects or corporate initiatives. This allows for a true payback calculation; and

* ultimately, more flexible systems that can be modified more easily to respond to changing business strategies.

Q: I've heard a lot of companies have tried client/server and failed - is this really ready for prime time?

A: A year or two ago, several stories were published about client/server failures. This I attribute to people rushing to use a new technology just because it was new and not because its strengths best support the business need. …

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