outside a cluster

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The LIC (Internet Data Centre, or Intoxicating Drinking Competition if it is a Friday lunchtime) provides Internet marketplaces. All modern companies have a need for Internet marketplaces where buyers and sellers congregate to exchange goods and services for money. Trading in the marketplace is done using websites. This Internet trade is popularly referred to as e-commerce.

This page gives an idea of the LIC's place in the grand scheme of things. It does not tell you anything about what makes the LIC tick.

LIC topology: outside the LIC

The LIC is a data center, a room full of computers running all sorts of software. It provides all the propeller head stuff needed to provide an Internet marketplace for trading goods and services. It provides facilities to run Internet websites, extranet websites and intranet websites. A data center is also known as a data centre (spot the difference), a computer center and a hosting facility.

what it is

The LIC is connected to two networks: the Internet and the enterprise. The LIC sits between them, offering enterprise services to Internet customers. People from both these networks can use the LIC.

  • The Internet is where customers are. The Internet side is public, uncontrolled and unsafe. To stop bad things getting in from the Internet, heavy security is used.
  • The enterprise is where the people who control the LIC are. Enterprise is short for business enterprise. The enterprise side is private, controlled and has all sorts of unprotected sensitive information floating around it.

The good thing about being connected to both networks is it allows you to provide visitors to your websites with internal information, such as customer history or product stock levels. The bad thing is bad guys regularly try to hack through the LIC defences to get to the enterprise network. Security in the LIC is therefore very tight. Your guests get what they are given; they cannot help themselves.

a web site container

LIC topology: web sites in a cluster
Internet site 1
Internet site 2
Extranet site 1
Intranet site 1
Intranet site 2
Intranet site 3

Three different types of websites are found in the LIC.

  • Internet websites are sites that are available from anywhere on the Internet. These can be used to sell goods to the general public or pass on information. An Internet store website is a B2C marketplace. An information website may be brochureware: it is an online version of a printed company brochure.
  • Extranet websites are security restricted versions of Internet websites. An extranet site may used to pass information between business partners or to buy and sell goods and services. An extranet website may be a B2B exchange that takes place between computers or it may offer a discount to another company's employees.
  • Intranet websites are for use by internal departments only. These provide services such as workflow, knowledgebase search and the company phonebook. You don't want the general public getting their hands on this information.


an enterprise class e-commerce marketplace

The LIC is an enterprise class e-commerce marketplace. Enterprise class means it is reliable enough to be used by a business enterprise. An enterprise class network is complicated: it is a tiered architecture, able to cater for thousands of customers a day. It provides the resources for efficient and reliable processing of business information. It is a critical and highly available environment. At the other end of the scale from enterprise class is SOHO class (Small Office Home Office) where everything might run on one computer, catering for dozens of customers a day.

People expect a few things from enterprise class products so the LIC has these attributes.

  • business critical

    The LIC contains business critical systems. If an operation within an organisation is essential to the organisation's success then that operation is "business critical". People who are old enough to remember the moon landings call this "mission critical". The LIC can house business applications which process information that is critical to the business functioning properly such as product payments. Internet sales can be a large source of revenue for a business.

  • always available

    The LIC is always available: all day, every day. Due to the critical and sensitive needs of applications, it is imperative that this environment be available all the time, even when maintenance is taking place.

  • fast

    The environment is configured to allow for efficient and prompt processing of business information. Internet customers are not patient and they do not wait.

  • complex

    The LIC is a complex platform. Wherever possible complexity is minimised because complexity leads to confused people which leads to broken things. Broken things must be fixed by the support team. The LIC is in fact over-engineered for most people's needs. If a new web project has a budget of less than $10,000, it probably does not need the LIC.

used by people

The people who use the LIC fall into three categories.

  • end-users, the B2B and B2C customers, who generate revenue.
  • development team, the people who design and build the products and services that these end-users want to spend their money on.
  • support team, the people who build and support the services. The LIC is maintained by the part of an organisation that is responsible for providing e-commerce facilities. The support team is the technical arm of an e-commerce department which acts as the Internet business solution provider for the company. So remember: keep things simple and make life easier for yourself. If you have a multi-platform & multi-vendor environment, the support staff must be multi-skilled multi-taskers. All this "multi" marketing phrase nonsense means that different types of computers bought from different companies need different skills to keep them running. You can't sell goods over the Internet if your website is down. The support team must keep the LIC running 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

used by clients

LIC topology: Internet clients use the
cluster services

The LIC provides services to Internet clients. An Internet client is a thing that uses Internet services. An Internet client is used by a customer. A customer is a person or a group of people with a business relationship with an organisation. Since the Internet is full of computers, transactions between customers and organisations can be automated so people don't have to be present when the transactions happen.

The LIC offers WWW services, DNS services, e-mail services and SSH services. These are used by WWW clients, DNS clients, e-mail clients and SSH clients. You may notice a pattern forming here.

the central component of an environment

There can be more than one LIC in one organisation. You can have a few copies of the LIC used in different environments. An environment is a set of conditions that people work in. Different groups of people need different environments to be able to do their work well. Big organisations usually have these environments.

  • a production environment, the real live Internet marketplace where customers make transactions
  • a test environment used to test services before they are made available to customers
  • a development environment, where the development team make and break new services. No-one would be silly enough to connect a development environment to the Internet. It would be like giving young boys a set of truck keys.

what it isn't

An ISP. It provides services to the Internet. It does not help people to use the Internet.

A data warehouse. Its primary role is data transactions, not data storage.

A server farm. There is plenty of processing power in the LIC, but is all committed to Internet services.

where it is

In the virtual world of the Internet, the LIC is a series of DMZs (De-Militarised Zones) between the corporate network and the Internet.

In the real world, an LIC is securely locked up in a dedicated room in an office block.