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The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) is a $6 billion integrated health care enterprise and a widely recognized leader in using information technology for health care. UPMC puts great demands on its information systems to operate 19 hospitals, a network of other care sites, and international and commercial ventures. With 43,000 employees, it is the largest employer in western Pennsylvania. It is a national leader in implementing electronic medical records. UPMC was such a heavy user of information technology that demand for additional servers and storage technology was growing by 20 percent each year.
Integrating the systems of a new hospital it acquired or adding new information systems increased the complexity of its infrastructure, making it increasingly difficult to manage. UPMC was setting up a separate server for every application, and its servers and other computers were running a number of different operating systems, including several versions of UNIX and Windows. UPMC had to manage technologies from many different vendors, including Hewlett-Packard (HP), Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, and IBM. 115 116
Part II: Information Technology Infrastructure To reduce costs and simplify its IT infrastructure, UPMC turned to IBM. In 2005, UPMC selected IBM as its primary server and storage technology provider with the goal of reducing UPMC’s IT infrastructure spending by 20 percent. IBM would also provide help in managing the people, process, and technology issues surrounding the overhaul of UPMC’s IT infrastructure. Both organizations agreed to work together on developing applications to jointly market to other hospitals and health care firms.
IBM recommended that UPMC use virtualization to reduce the number of servers it needed to run its applications. Virtualization makes it possible to put many applications on a single physical server but give each its own instance of the operating system, so what appear to be many separate applications and operating systems are running on a single machine. It standardized UNIX applications on IBM’s AIX version of the UNIX operating system running on IBM System p5 595 servers and used VMware technology to consolidate more than 1,000 physical servers on just 20 IBM System x servers.
As a result, server utilization rates have increased from 3 percent per server to nearly 80 percent, the same staff are able to support 150 percent more server capacity, and the space required for servers has been reduced by 40 percent. UPMC also used IBM technology to consolidate its storage infrastructure to three enterprise-wide storage pools, enhancing utilization, flexibility, and management. International Data Corporation’s Health Industry Insights service estimated that UPMC’s server virtualization project alone will save $18 million to $22 million over the next three years by reducing costs for ew hardware, floor space, and staffing. Sources: David F. Carr, “Major Surgery,” Baseline Magazine, July 2007 and IBM, “University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Boosts Efficiency and Cost Savings with IBM Virtualization Technology,” April 9, 2007. T he University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is highly dependent on information technology for its daily operations and patient care. But UPMC is a large organization with many local branches, new units to integrate, and a massive amount of data to store and process. Its IT infrastructure used technology from many different vendors.
It was so complex and massive that it had become difficult to manage, and its server and storage needs were growing at 20 percent each year. UPMC could have kept adding more hardware each year, but this would have made its infrastructure even more complex and added to IT costs. But this is an organization with a very large amount of information to manage that would benefit from an enterprise-wide approach to managing computers, storage, and networks. UPMC chose instead to standardize its technology as much as possible on IBM platforms and to use virtualization technology to reduce the number of servers required to run its applications.
This solution lowered costs, increased resource utilization rates, and made UPMC’s IT infrastructure easier to maintain and manage. Chapter 4: IT Infrastructure: Hardware and Software 117 HEADS UP This chapter describes the kind of software and hardware you will need to operate a business. In your business career, you will inevitably be making decisions about what information technology to buy, from whom to buy it, and how much to spend for it. You will need to know how to select technology that enhances the performance of your business, is cost effective, and is appropriate for the kind of work you will be doing. . 1 IT Infrastructure: Computer Hardware If you want to know why American businesses spend about $2 trillion every year on computing and information systems, just consider what it would take for you personally to set up a business or manage a business today. Businesses today require a wide variety of computing equipment, software, and communications capabilities simply to operate and solve basic business problems. Obviously, you need computers, and, as it turns out, a wide variety of computers are available, including desktops, laptops, and handhelds.
Do your employees travel or do some work from home? You will want to equip them with laptop computers (over half the computers sold in the U. S. are laptops). If you are employed by a medium to large business, you will also need larger server computers, perhaps an entire data center or server farm with hundreds or even thousands of servers. Google, for instance, is able to answer 80 million queries a day in the United States, most within one second, by using a massive network of 450,000 PC servers linked together to spread the workload. You will also need plenty of software.
Each computer will require an operating system and a wide range of application software capable of dealing with spreadsheets, documents, and data files. Unless you are a single-person business, you will most likely want to have a network to link all the people in your business together and perhaps your customers and suppliers. As a matter of fact, you will probably want several networks: a local area network connecting employees in your office and remote access capabilities so employees can share e-mail and computer files while they are out of the office.
You will also want all your employees to have access to land and cell phone networks and the Internet. Finally, to make all this equipment and software work harmoniously, you will also need the services of trained people to help you run and manage this technology. 118 Part II: Information Technology Infrastructure All of these elements we have just described combine to make up the firm’s information technology (IT) infrastructure, which we first defined in Chapter 1. A firm’s IT infrastructure provides the foundation, or platform, for supporting all the information systems in the business.
IT infrastructure today is composed of five major components: computer hardware, computer software, data management technology, networking and telecommunications technology, and technology services (see Figure 4-1). These components must be coordinated with each other. Computer Hardware Computer hardware consists of technology for computer processing, data storage, input, and output. This component includes large mainframes, servers, midrange computers, desktop and laptop computers, handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile devices for accessing corporate data and the Internet.
It also includes equipment for gathering and inputting data, physical media for storing the data, and devices for delivering the processed information as output. Computer Software Computer software includes both system software and application software. System software manages the resources and activities of the computer. Application software applies the computer to a specific task for an end user, such as processing an order or generating a mailing list. Today, most system and application software is no longer custom programmed but rather is purchased from outside vendors.
We describe these types of software in detail in Section 4. 2. Data Management Technology In addition to physical media for storing the firm’s data, businesses need specialized software to organize the data and make them available to business users. Data management software organizes, manages, and processes business data concerned with inventory, customers, and vendors. Chapter 5 describes data management software in detail. Figure 4-1 IT Infrastructure Components A firm’s IT infrastructure is composed of hardware, software, data management technology, networking technology, and technology services.
Chapter 4: IT Infrastructure: Hardware and Software 119 Networking and Telecommunications Technology Networking and telecommunications technology provides data, voice, and video connectivity to employees, customers, and suppliers. It includes technology for running a company’s internal networks, services from telecommunications/telephone services companies, and technology for running Web sites and linking to other computer systems through the Internet. Chapter 6 provides an in-depth description of these technologies.
Technology Services Businesses need people to run and manage the other infrastructure components we have just described and to train employees in how to use these technologies for their work. Chapter 2 described the role of the information systems department, which is the firm’s internal business unit set up for this purpose. Today, many businesses supplement their in-house information systems staff with external technology consultants. Even large firms do not have the staff, the skills, the budget, or the necessary experience to implement and run the wide array of technologies that would be required.
When businesses need to make major system changes or implement an entirely new IT infrastructure, they typically turn to external consultants to help them with systems integration. Systems integration means ensuring that the new infrastructure works with the firm’s older, so-called legacy systems and that the new elements of the infrastructure work with one another. Legacy systems are generally older transaction processing systems created for mainframe computers that continue to be used to avoid the high cost of replacing or redesigning them.
There are many thousands of technology vendors supplying IT infrastructure components and services and an equally large number of ways of putting them together. This chapter is about the hardware and software components of infrastructure you will need to run a business. Chapter 5 describes the data management component, and Chapter 6 is devoted to the networking and telecommunications technology component. Chapter 7 deals with hardware and software for ensuring that information systems are reliable and secure, and Chapter 8 discusses software for enterprise applications.
Business firms face many different challenges and problems that can be solved by computers and information systems. In order to be efficient, firms need to match the right computer hardware to the nature of the business challenge, neither overspending nor underspending for the technology. Computers come in an array of sizes with differing capabilities for processing information, from the smallest handheld devices to the largest mainframes and supercomputers. Table 4. 1 illustrates the different broad categories of computers and their relative performance.
Although there are many factors that enter into a computer system’s performance, one way to think about the performance of computers is to measure how long it takes them to perform a FLOPS (FLoating point Operations Per Second). A floating point operation is essentially long division. The faster a computer system can calculate long division problems, the higher its overall performance. Computers range in power from about 500 FLOPS (a handheld) to more than a trillion FLOPS for supercomputers.
If you’re working alone or with a few other people in a small business, you’ll probably be using a desktop or laptop personal computer (PC). You might carry around a mobile device with some computing capability, such as a BlackBerry, iPhone or Palm handheld, or other high-end cell phone. If you’re doing advanced design or engineering work requiring powerful graphics or computational capabilities, you might use a workstation, which fits on a desktop but has more powerful mathematical and graphics-processing capabilities than a PC.