Telecom Provider Unravels Change Puzzle
Coordinating change control for applications in dot-com environments can be daunting. If a dot-com is linked to traditional enterprise systems, it can get downright maddening. Essentially, the code from two separate organizations needs to be controlled.
Ursus Telecom Corp. (www.ursustel.net), a provider of worldwide telephony services, found this to be the case when it introduced theStream.com, an Internet-based long-distance phone service. "Change control for our organization has to run all the way through the parent organization, Ursus Telecom, back to us," says S. Jay Chavez, vice president of worldwide Internet services for theStream.com and Ursus Telecom.
"There's a server that sits in between our enterprise and the Ursus enterprise that registers people's home phones to work with our service," Chavez says. "For obvious reasons, Ursus may need to take that server down for maintenance and other things that they're working on. All these things have to be through the same change management program between the two different organizations. Otherwise, you end up with disastrous results."
When a telecommunications transaction is sold through theStream.com, "We create an authorization code through Ursus' legacy enterprise system," Chavez says. "There's a lot of checks and balances going into that, and we spent months and months just on security issues alone before we ever built the site."
But for change management activities that fall outside of the Web environment, Ursus still uses "the old yellow-pad method of change management," Chavez says. "Anything that uses or adds more to theStream.com or e-commerce goes through the change management system. However, it's difficult to get people in the separate organization -- who have their own goals and objectives -- to participate in a change management program when it doesn't affect their day-to-day business."
For applications within the boundaries of theStream.com organization, change management is entirely automated. Chavez says theStream.com currently has about 10 separate teams of developers handling different aspects of the operation. "If someone wants to make a simple HTML change, they could mess up an applet or application that makes our online services work," he explains.
"It takes quite a bit of project management," Chavez continues. "Every time we take on a partnership, we're either building minisites or customized sites for partners that either want to sell one part or all of our services. You have to divide that into projects, each with a project leader. When you have that many people making updates and changes in everything, you need some type of mechanism to keep track of what everyone is doing. Before we had change management tools in place, everyone was working on their own unique projects. One person would grab a page, make changes to it, and blow out a Java applet or a piece of programming that was in place for a different part of the page that they were working on."
Ursus' theStream.com needed a tool to track these changes, as well as the workflow. "With a site under eight languages, as well as a number of cobranded sites, we expect that the number of developers doing Internet work will grow quickly," Chavez says. TheStream.com is working with the Web Integrity change control tool from Mortice Kern Systems Inc. (MKS, www.mks.com) to maintain control over its rapidly expanding Web development activities.
"We had multiple developers working on this huge multimillion-dollar site," Chavez says. This includes programmers developing interfaces between the application server and the legacy enterprises, HTML developers, graphic designers, and others.
While the Web site is hosted on an IBM RS/6000, information is fed from a series of Windows NT servers that run functions such as credit card authorizations, Chavez says. Ursus also has MKS Web Integrity running on a Compaq ProLiant server with Windows NT, which functions as a staging server.