The Enterprise Strikes Back

It is

a period of

Corporate technology wars.

A potentially fatal take-over of all

software and hardware that shapes the essence of

professional and personal life threatens. Humankind must defend themselves

from the evil, omnipresent Y2K Bug, predicted to cause financial chaos and

social strife, ranging from food shortages to widespread blackouts. It is up to a select

group of rebel MEs (Millennium Experts) to save the Enterprise.

But time is running out.

The rebellion

is quiet and bloodless.

MEs fight against the feared Y2K Bug,

trying desperately to disable its ultimate weapon,

the EDB (Enterprise Death Bug).

The source

of the Y2K Bug’s ultimate

destruction tool is a programming

oversight with enough power to take down

the entire planet. The ME’s goal: Liberate encrypted programs

and save the Corporate World, restoring technologically dependent peace

to the human race.

 

The Enterprise Strikes Back... and Wins.

Below is a tale of courage and trust. Of technology

put to the test of humanity. Of security and, above all, happy endings.

May the Force be with you.

 

As organizations evaluate their year 2000 readiness, many are finding that their current network infrastructure is not compliant. And while many steps are being taken to help ensure that their internal systems become year 2000-compliant, there are significant risks that threaten the external communications network.

Today’s network implementation strategy is to design and develop an alternative network, then "throw the switch." In the event that the network fails, most organizations "prop up" the network the best they can until repairs can be made. Organizations need to set up several networks to help mitigate the risk of any one communications network potentially bringing down their entire business. There is a real need for a solution that supports multiple, alternate networking protocols with the ability to fall back to one that will allow the transmission to be completed. The catch: The process must be seamless to the end user.

As organizations move toward the New Millennium, it is clear that they require a better solution -- one that provides a real-time contingency plan for network implementations, leaves their existing network intact, overlays the new network and provides it with automatic fallback (failsafe connectivity) in case of network problems. This transparent "security blanket" will be, for many, the answer to a smooth transition from 1999 to the year 2000.

Corporations must reexamine their corporate infrastructure. Desktops and their resident applications need to be evaluated for compliance. Mainframes housing mission-critical as well as non-critical information need to be evaluated for compliance. And within this evaluation, the very network itself must be evaluated. Is it based on legacy systems? Are the protocols and bandwidth robust enough to support the organization’s growing needs? Is the network responsive to the organization’s internal and external customers? Will the organization’s current technology help to propel it toward success in the New Millennium?

Within this framework of introspection and self-evaluation, the very nature of the network must be re-assessed. Is it time to migrate current legacy SNA networks to more flexible TCP/IP networks? If yes, how do you do so while protecting the integrity of the network, and without destroying the fabric of the company? How do you stay productive throughout the transition? How do you give your employees the tools they need, and want, without stripping them of all of their familiar applications and programs?

You need to move. You need to change. You need to be proactive in the face of a reactive need. But you need a safety net. You have infinite amounts of mission-critical information that cannot be compromised. You have internal and external customers to satisfy. You have an Enterprise to run. You cannot let the Bug bite you.

You need a migration strategy. You need to understand all the levels upon which your Enterprise is built and operates: from the desktop to the mainframe, from the Intranet out to the Internet. You need to extend your frontiers while protecting your valued home base. A New Millennium is dawning, and you are fighting a new battle -- a raging war against time and technology. A battle that affects every level of your corporate existence, and your opponent is a nasty Bug fondly named Y2K. Step up to the light and arm yourself. The Force has a strong influence on both, the weak and the mighty.

Chapter 1 - Y2K: A New Perspective

1977 - George Lucas released Episode 4 of a fantastic story detailing the battle between good and evil, of inner strength, conquests and the meaning of true power.

1997 – George Lucas re-released his famous trilogy. At the time of its release 20 years prior, he felt the story was sacrificed to the limits of the technology available.

1999 – George Lucas will release the first part of his saga, going back 40 years in time and providing the answers to questions raised within his trilogy.

Ah, to be George Lucas. If only we could remake the networks that we created over the past 20 years with newer, stronger and more robust technologies... if we could go back and correct yesterday’s mistakes and over-sights, creating "prequels" instead of "sequels," the entire Y2K issue would be a non-issue. The doom and dread that the Y2K Bug casts over corporate and private life would simply not be. But alas, such is not the case. Like it or not, Y2K is real. Its implications, foreboding and costly. Its reach, infinite. It has made us reevaluate our infrastructures and superstructures, and examine the very heart of our technological foundations.

This may not be a bad thing. The Y2K battle is opening up opportunities for organizations to become stronger, more efficient and more powerful than ever before. Migrating from SNA to TCP/IP to better extend information outward is becoming one of today’s most talked about challenges, thanks in part to Y2K.

Corporate Superstructures: Are You Y2K Ready?

"This is madness! We’re doomed!" -- C-3P0, Star Wars: A New Hope

An effective Y2K readiness plan is a six-step process that includes: 1) Planning; 2) Inventorying; 3) Testing; 4) Remediating; 5) Re-testing and 6) Implementing & Integrating. The glue that holds it all together is the contingency plan. The true challenge of corporations as they embark on the battle of the century is planning for what your business partner may have missed. The main objective is trying to reduce the risk of a failure. The combinations and permutations of interdependencies cannot be planned for, yet must be planned against.

Y2K: The Golden Upgrade Opportunity? Absolutely!

"Don’t be too proud of this technological terror... the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force." -- Darth Vader, Star Wars: A New Hope

Preparing corporations for the year 2000 goes beyond Y2K bug zapping. It involves walking through the annals of the corporate backbone, examining each and every facet of the network, from the desktop and all its applications, to the way information is processed and accessed. By virtue of Y2K planning and readiness projects, corporations are examining side-related issues: How is information being shared today? Will these methods still be effective as we grow in the New Millennium? How can we better service the interests and demands of our growing customer base? Will our current network satisfy tomorrow’s needs?

Ironically enough, Y2K represents a wonderful window of opportunity for change. Why? Simply because Y2K readiness budgets are large. Much larger than regular IS budgets. They are an incredible opportunity for corporations to embrace their future in the present.

Exploit the Power of the Y2K Budget: Deploy Cutting Edge Technologies

"In my experience, there is no such thing as luck... you have taken your first steps into a larger world... Your destiny lies along a different path than mine. The Force will be with you… always!" -- Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope

The time is ripe for corporations to embrace newer technologies, to migrate their old, complex SNA legacy networks to faster, less complicated TCP/IP networks and 32-bit operating environments. By doing so, corporations will realize incredible network support cost savings, as well as extend information that resides on host servers outward to a larger user-base.

Chapter 2: The Enterprise - A Snap Shot of a Corporation in Y2K and Millennium Planning

Perhaps the best way to understand the complexities involved in preparing for Y2K is to follow the story of The Enterprise, a multi-national manufacturing corporation located in Utah, with 650 employees scattered over 24 offices worldwide. From an IT perspective, it is a true 24-hour, seven-day-a-week shop that follows the sun. By the time the last office closes in Asia-Pacific, there is one hour before the next office opens in Europe. The Enterprise employs 15 IT professionals, eight of whom are at Corporate Headquarters, making the department much smaller than the norm for a corporation of its size and scope.

The Enterprise was thrown into its Y2K readiness project because the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that had been keeping it running for nearly two decades was not Y2K-certified, posing a huge risk to the corporation’s mission-critical business processes. Upon re-evaluating the corporation’s long-term goals and objectives, it was clear that these systems would not support The Enterprise’s plans for accelerated growth in the New Millennium. Neither could their legacy SNA network, which no longer provided regional offices with adequate access to mission-critical information. A growing number of traveling sales people also required access to host data for essential report generation. While these latter concerns were not a Y2K issue, their constraints became increasingly obvious as The Enterprise’s infrastructure and superstructure were being scrutinized.

Examining the Corporate LAN/WAN Infrastructure

Internal Network

The Enterprise’s infrastructure consisted of token-ring and Ethernet networks to which the mainframe, SNA gateways and routers where attached. Routers were used to go from the corporate LAN to The Enterprise’s leased lines and public data network supplier. Protocols included a mix of X.25 and HDLC that connected back to a slew of X.25 gateways running out to the regional offices. The Enterprise’s SNA network was very slow and extremely costly to run, support and maintain.

Regional Infrastructures

Each of the Enterprise’s 24 regional offices was carefully assessed for Y2K readiness and their ability to support The Enterprise’s mission of growth. In doing so, the need to rebuild regional infrastructures was clear. Expansion into new and growing markets was becoming increasingly difficult. The Enterprise’s business was growing in Europe, but there was too much traffic on The Enterprise’s leased lines to support their growth. The current infrastructure and superstructure was stifling their success. With a substantial Y2K budget, this was the opportunity The Enterprise needed (see Figure 1).

Chapter 3: The Enterprise Strikes Back -- Moving Toward the New Millennium

"No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try." -- Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

The Enterprise’s SNA-based network was not capable of supporting the newly defined corporate processes and objectives. A move to a full IP network was now necessary and would allow The Enterprise to enjoy the flexibility inherent in an IP infrastructure. Some SNA was preserved at Headquarters to connect TN3270 gateways and Web-to-host servers to the mainframe. From the gateways and servers, access was extended to users over pure IP (see Figure 2).

In addition, they sought a solution that would satisfy the following requirements:

1. Support the existing SNA network and facilitate access to mainframe-resident applications.

2. Implement a new IP-based network for additional flexibility.

3. Deploy a solution that supports both networks while providing failsafe connectivity and network backup.

4. Deploy TN3270 to maintain access to the mainframe.

5. Upgrade desktops to 32-bit.

6. Provide heavy users with full-function, 32-bit desktop emulation.

7. Extend Java-based host access to casual users.

8. Facilitate browser-based SNA-to-Web host access for report-creation, rejuvenation of host applications.

9. Lay the foundation for future e-commerce applications.

10. Standardize on a family of Y2K-compliant products that will support all goals.

Migrating From SNA to TCP/IP

The Enterprise standardized on a family of Y2K-compliant host access products with a unique ability to provide failsafe connectivity throughout The Enterprise’s phased migration from SNA to TCP/IP. Essentially, their new IP-based network was pre-configured on the emulator as the primary network, and their existing SNA network as the secondary network. The emulator’s fallback feature protects The Enterprise as they transparently migrate from the latter to the former, and provides continuous network availability throughout all migration phases. The Enterprise’s administrators were able to pre-plan and fully test their migration without ever interrupting users’ access to mission-critical information. Throughout the process, user workstations needed only to be configured once, with systems administrators never having to return and reconfigure individual desktops.

As The Enterprise changes their networks, access to host applications remain unaffected. The emulator automatically detects and connects to the application on the new network, making the change completely transparent to the users. The system preserves the integrity of the connections and supports new standard TN3270 protocols. Even productivity tools on the desktop remain intact. This transparent migration tool ensures The Enterprise’s smooth 24x7 operation, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Worldwide Host Access

Before, The Enterprise was using an amalgam of products, making it almost impossible to audit the software used. Their choice for standardizing on a family of full-function desktop and browser-based emulators provides their growing sales force with host access, regardless of where they are, in a user interface that is both familiar and easy-to-use. The Enterprise’s once-complicated and mixed infrastructure is now more efficient, homogeneous and easier to manage.

With its new software, The Enterprise satisfied its objectives, and was now able to:

1. Upgrade its desktop operating environment to 32-bit, allowing host data to be integrated to office productivity applications.

2. Extend efficient, secure and flexible host access to all regional offices.

3. Provide browser-based host access for its traveling sales force.

4. Develop Y2K-compliant, rejuvenated Web-to-host applications for report generation.

5. View host data and update host information from a browser.

6. Keep newly deployed applications Y2K-compliant.

7. Offer a Java-based host access solution to employees that don’t need the sophistication of a full, rejuvenated host access product.

Furthermore, with The Enterprise’s new compliant ERP software, distributed processing is now a reality. Reports can be processed outside of the corporate mainframe. From within their new family of host access products, The Enterprise selected an advanced Web-to-host server tool to automatically Web-enable SNA applications via on-the-fly 3270-to-HTML conversion. Now, host information can be accessed through Web browsers over intranets and the Internet. Traditional "green screen" applications can be "rejuvenated" and viewed as contemporary Web pages. Furthermore, users can control, manipulate and interact with host sessions, providing an exceptional platform for building automated applications.

Migrating from SNA to pure TCP/IP allowed The Enterprise to use newer technologies and simplify their networking infrastructure. Moreover, The Enterprise is now equipped to embark on an e-commerce program and extend information and services outward to their external customers.

The Enterprise profited from:

1. Improved cost savings and reduced support and maintenance costs.

2. A simplified Network Architecture with just one standards-based technology to support.

3. A consolidation of service providers, from five to two.

4. Better management, as fewer people handle a more responsive network that supports more employees. The IT department can proactively provide Quality of Service (QOS) by application.

5. Improved management tools for monitoring worldwide network usage.

6. A network that will sustain all aspects of business growth.

Chapter 4: Exploiting Thy Enemy

"Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." --Obi-Wan Kenobi, Return of the Jedi

Ironically, Y2K has opened up opportunities that did not exist before. The move to IP represents The Enterprise’s potential for providing a ubiquitous network to its growing base of internationally dispersed customers. And all because of one nasty Bug! As time draws us closer to the Bug’s life force, sapping us of time and energy, perhaps it’s time to take a step back with that next cup of Java and re-think our perceptions. Perhaps Lucas was right. If only we too could write prequels instead of living out sequels.

But, what fun would that be?

As the

clock ticks on,

the Millennium Fault

transports us to a New Era. With the proper tools,

migration strategy and contingency plans, The Enterprise is

winning the Battle against the Y2K Bug -- and becoming stronger and mightier.

It has begun to construct a new corporation even more powerful than the first

and provide freedom to information for its galaxy of users.

 

May the Force be with us, forever.

 

About the Author:

Jean-Francois Levesque is the Director of the SNA Access Business Unit at Eicon Technology. He has over 15 years of experience in developing and marketing IBM mainframe connectivity products, and is responsible for Eicon’s Aviva product line. He can be reached at jeanl@eicon.com.