January 18, 1999

How Firms Manage and Meld Internet, Intranet, and Extranet

By Steven L. Telleen

Q:How are large corporations set up internally, from an infrastructure standpoint? Do most operate their Internet sites, intranets, and extranets separately, or all under one umbrella?

A: Historically, Internet and intranet sites have been managed separately. But the growing trend toward providing partners and customers access to internal transaction systems has many companies looking at the infrastructure as common to all three uses. 

Most of these companies separate the publishing of information across servers based on access patterns. 

Intranet document servers often replicate the data to a separate extranet server, which is integrated as part of the content review system. Intranet application servers may access the same back-end database servers as extranet app servers, but many firms replicate the databases for security reasons. 

Many companies started their Net presence on an outsourced system, and then brought it in-house as they connected to their transaction systems, and now seem to be outsourcing again as the Net becomes business-critical. 

The latest wave of outsourcing is to companies that specialize in worldwide replication for performance balancing, and 24-by-7 fault tolerance. Thus the reason for outsourcing has changed from fear to availability. 

Content management is more complicated than simple Internet, extranet, and intranet distinctions, because it is a function of the ownership and intended use of the data. This management can be very formal (for example, Internet content is generally highly controlled by business and marketing) or fairly informal, such as a project team using the infrastructure to share project notes. 

In the Oct. 5, 1998, issue of Forbes magazine, Peter Drucker said management in the next century will be very different from management in the latter half of this one, due to the recognition that one-size-fits-all management isn't appropriate (or effective) for all parts of a modern organization. This will be true of the organization's Web-based content, too. Traditional management approaches are too coarse even for intranets. 

In sum, technical infrastructure and access control will merge Internet, extranet, and intranet uses, and related content will see even more diversity in management approaches. 

Date: 19990118
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