1996 Volume 13, Number 37 Page 42-43
Amdahl Corp., still often associated with big
has shown considerable nimbleness in moving into the intranet arena.
intranet involvement dates to 1994, when it began using the term
in a series of customer focus groups. The word was so new and different
Amdahl even thought about trademarking it. But alas, it didn't, and now
company even remotely related to the networking business has latched
it. But these companies can't boast, as Amdahl can, that they've been
internal Web sites since the first browser went into beta. Steve
director of Amdahl's IntraNet Solutions Group in Sunnyvale, Calif.,
his pioneer's perspective on intranet management in an interview with
Editor Beth Schultz.
NWW -- A lot of people probably still
of Amdahl Corp. first and foremost as a mainframe provider. The company
clearly been trying to change that image. How will your move into the
STEVE -- Our traditional strengths as a company
always been based on our ability to deliver world-class service in
of enterprise-wide, business-critical problems. Our products have
had to integrate with those of our competitors and others to solve our
problems. Amdahl also has a long history of helping our customers
between legacy and emerging technologies, whether it was MVS and Unix,
mainframes and client-server or now tying it all together with an
It was from this heritage that we approached the
technology in 1993. And it was this heritage that brought us to
so quickly on both the intra-enterprise uses of the technology and the
of how companies would actually implement and manage this technology as
Recognizing that our customers viewed our service
a major value and differentiating feature, Amdahl executives began to
on the services aspect of our business a few years ago. They set a goal
have half our revenues come from services, and this year it looks as
NWW -- Does Amdahl's IntraNet Solutions Group
itself among all the Web services providers out there?
STEVE -- The IntraNet Solutions Group began with a
on the organizational and management issues that need to be addressed
implementing an Intranet. This focus has led us down a different path
other services that start with a focus on the technical issues of
The technical issues - the tools and standards -
an evolutionary change from what we had before. The effect of the
on organizations is revolutionary. We have focused on how to manage
We developed an organizational architecture and a
information management architecture that supports a distributed
self-publishing, user-pull model for enterprise information. We then
a methodology for introducing these architectures into an enterprise.
We have packaged the methodology into four
Executive Awareness, Goals Clarification, Implementation Planning, and
The latter two require three distinct focuses: organizational,
and content. The real differentiating feature of our offering is the
organizational focus, the methodology for creating and rolling out the
roles, organizations and skills required to realize the business
potential of this technology.
NWW -- Discuss how Amdahl itself got into Web
and building an intranet.
STEVE -- In April 1993, a few of the technical
in Amdahl's Open Enterprise Systems (OES) organization acquired a copy
the Mosaic beta release and began playing with it. They hooked-up with
open systems competitive analyst, who had a volume problem making
available to our field sales organization. This resulted in a
pilot project focused on a problem inside our firewall.
The IntraNet Solutions Group grew out of the
and Market Planning part of OES. In mid-1994, we began looking at how
might integrate the skunkworks pilot into our business. The most
feature of web technology was how easy it was for non-technical people
use. And the development trend in that direction was picking up a
that was hard to miss. From this observation, we concluded that the
was not going to be the difficult challenge; the challenge for both us
and our customers was going to be how to manage the result.
We developed the basic models and management
then set out to implement the infrastructure inside Amdahl. We
the CIO to sponsor the project and used the formation of a
Web Council as the core of our roll-out. Over the next several months
learned a lot about what did and didn't work, and what was critical. We
learned something about the stages an intranet goes through during its
development. The results were refined into our IntraNet Methodology.
NWW --You have created a publishing model for
intranet. Describe it and explain why you think companies should follow
STEVE -- The publishing model was created as a way
use the Intranet to manage the Intranet content. It is a combination of
defined functions, roles and concepts and a logical architecture and
of processes that take advantage of the strengths of Intranet
The model allows local organizations to self-publish and manage the
for which they are responsible and, at the same time provides an easily
maintained structure that allows all the official information to be
found and browsed, in a logical context. At its core is a set of broker
pages for executives and managers to help them monitor the information
for which they are responsible. If this type of flexibility, local
control and management support is important to the company, then this
model will help.
NWW -- So, you've come up with this idea of a
page. What is this?
It wasn't so much the idea of a broker page as
that web pages had different purposes and met different needs. Today I
describe these as the need for content and the need for context. As the
of information content grows, users have an increasing need to have it
presented in a relevant context. This is what a broker page does. It
provides context for the user. A broker page should have a definite
audience and purpose in
mind. In a web environment, making context information independent of
pages provides the greatest simplicity of management and
Search engines are automated brokers. They are an
part of any large Intranet. However, it is important to recognize that
are a general broker that provides little or no specific context up
front. Users may need contextual help to formulate the right question,
they may need
support in following a certain sequence of activities, or they may need
screening information or identifying the official or sanctioned
sources. A search engine is not the appropriate broker for these
NWW -- What type of information do you suggest
put on their intranet?
STEVE -- An Intranet is an enabling
and one of the things it enables is the ability of those closest to an
to develop and control the information and activities that best support
needs. It also is important to recognize that an intranet is made up of
generic types of information: official, departmental/project and
All three are useful and provide value to the enterprise.
Our methodology is designed to teach organizations
to use the infrastructure and to create situations that stimulate
thinking. But each organization in the company should be enabled to
which information and which projects make the most sense for them. The
of a successful Intranet is how well it enables these organizations to
their processes and publish their information themselves, without an
development project or heavy-duty technical person.
The MIS goal should be to add
and functionality that continually expand the capabilities that users
do for themselves.
It should not be to identify more projects to do for them. This is the
or perspective shift that MIS groups need to make.
NWW -- What do you recommend for companies
an intranet from scratch?
STEVE -- Start with the business goals and drive
implementation from the perspective of the management infrastructure.
you know what you are trying to accomplish and who is responsible for
the technical infrastructure requirements become quite obvious.
possible, stick to open standards. If you don't you are asking for
and costs in the future.
The first management issues are
to clarify intranet business goals and putting the appropriate
On security, my suggestion is, don't be too anxious to slap
sophisticated access controls on the Intranet. When the time comes,
follow the enabling principle. Set up a system that allows the
publishers to define who gets access
to specific information themselves, but handle the authentication and
of the user globally in the infrastructure.
Beyond the base technical infrastructure, the
challenge is to continue improving the tools to make the users more
The other major challenge is providing
workgroup capabilities. This includes E-mail, conferencing, shared
and workflow management. The challenge here is that integrated,
tools are just starting to emerge. The proprietary vendors already are
up with intranet front ends to their proprietary back ends. Whether the
will tolerate these lightly masked proprietary solutions or find enough
in the more open and innovative emerging solutions remains to be seen.
NWW -- Many intranets spring up at a grassroots
then get handed over or are absorbed under the corporate IT department.
companies aren't sure how to handle this transition. Do you have any
STEVE -- When this happens, it is almost certain
a management infrastructure does not exist, and this is not an IT
it is a business management problem. The sooner the CIO can be made
of this, the better for everyone. The technical infrastructure - that
the responsibility of IT - is going to look like the
world IT already manages. In fact, the chances are reasonably good that
already is managing much of the intranet technical infrastructure.
Once the management infrastructure has been
to the business managers, the IT department should take on the goal of
users to do for themselves. This means acquiring the software and
it available both for departmental servers and on servers that are
by the IT department. Not surprisingly, when the IT department starts
offer servers that are backed up, supported, and that allow the users
easily manage their own information themselves, the official
finds its own way from the departmental servers to these IT servers.
departmental servers continue to support departmental, project, and
NWW -- How do you think the early intranets we
today will change?
The biggest change we will see is in what
an intranet. Two years ago it was clear cut: an Intranet was a Web
a firewall. In the past two years the definition has changed in two
Advances in network security have made firewalls increasingly virtual.
is, information and access can be protected on physically shared
networks. And there are more inter-enterprise demands for protected
networks - that is, EDI applications are coming to the Intranet.
I now look at intranets as protected webs. I think
will continue to evolve to the point that each individual in an
may have a slightly different Intranet depending on the projects,
and industry groups with whom they interact.
Copyright 1996 NetworkWorld