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Lesson 2 Baseline technologies for e-commerce
ObjectiveDefine the role and vendors of hardware products in e-Commerce.

ecommerce Hardware Products

Hardware and the Birth of Distributed Computing

The following paragraph describes the birth of distributed computing. A few decades ago IBM, with its powerful mainframes, was the dominant force in the computer industry. Typically, an entire company, or a large department within a company, did all their computing on a mainframe such as an IBM/390. In many cases, multiple companies shared mainframes (known as timesharing). Eventually other companies like Digital Equipment (now part of Compaq) and Hewlett-Packard challenged IBM. These companies offered smaller, less expensive computer options, but the same design applied, which was all the computing could be executed on a single computer. If you needed more computing resources, you had to perform upgrades on the computer or replace the computer entirely.

Time for a change

Several years ago a number of hardware vendors, in conjunction with operating systems and storage vendors, invented clustering allowing multiple computers to work together so that they look like one logical computer. This enabled companies to expand their computing power by simply adding a machine or storage device to the cluster. As was the case in the past, this computing design was still based on a single computer, albeit now a single logical computer. Companies like Digital Equipment figured they could distribute some of the computing processes over multiple computers. For example, the database could be put on a different computer than the computer that was running the application logic and distributed computing was born.
Fast forward to the 1990s: In the 1990s distributed computing and clustering have become the norms for newer applications. The flexibility to add computing resources in smaller steps, and to manage and optimize a particular computer for a particular function, provided many benefits over mainframe-style computing. The ecommerce architect needs to think of hardware, and all the other computing resources, in a holistic fashion, understanding how today's distributed paradigm provides flexibility and the ability to optimize functions.

A Comprehensive Breakdown of Hardware Components

As the digital realm continues to evolve, understanding the multifaceted domain of hardware becomes indispensable. This guide offers an authoritative exploration of hardware, segmented into four principal categories: 1) servers, 2) personal computers, 3) mobile devices, and 4) storage and peripherals. Hardware, along with the network, provides the physical platform for ecommerce solutions. Common types of hardware include:
  1. Servers: Servers are specialized computing devices designed to manage, store, send, and process data 24/7 for networked computers.
    • Types:
      1. Dedicated Server: Serves a specific function, e.g., a web server or a database server.
      2. Shared Server: Hosts multiple clients or applications on a single machine.
      3. Virtual Servers: Use virtualization technology to host multiple virtual server instances on a single physical machine.
    • Components:
      1. Central Processing Unit (CPU): Often more and powerful cores for concurrent task processing.
      2. Random Access Memory (RAM): Higher capacities to handle simultaneous tasks.
      3. Storage: Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) for data redundancy and performance.
    • Key Characteristics: High reliability, uptime, redundancy, and scalability.
  2. Personal Computers (PCs): Personal computers are general-purpose devices meant for individual use. They come in various form factors, including desktops, laptops, and all-in-ones.
    • Components:
      1. CPU: The brain of the computer, executing instructions.
      2. RAM: Temporary memory storage for running applications.
      3. Storage: Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) or Solid-State Drives (SSDs) to store OS, software, and user data.
      4. Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): Handles rendering images and video.
    • Key Characteristics: Versatility, upgradeability, and adaptability to varied tasks, from basic word processing to intensive graphic design.
  3. Mobile Devices: Portable computing devices designed for on-the-go tasks, typically with touch interfaces or reduced input methods.
    • Types:
      1. Smartphones: Compact devices with cellular capabilities.
      2. Tablets: Larger screen devices without native phone capabilities.
      3. Wearables: Devices like smartwatches or fitness trackers.
    • Components:
      1. System on a Chip (SoC): Combines CPU, GPU, memory, and more on a single chip.
      2. Flash Storage: For storing OS, apps, and user data.
      3. Sensors: Including accelerometers, GPS, and cameras.
    • Key Characteristics: Portability, battery efficiency, integrated sensors, and connectivity options like 4G/5G and Wi-Fi.
  4. Storage and Peripherals: Auxiliary devices that connect to and extend the functionality of primary computing devices.
    • Storage Devices:
      1. External Hard Drives: Offer additional storage capacity.
      2. USB Flash Drives: Portable storage, usually with smaller capacities.
      3. Network Attached Storage (NAS): Dedicated devices that provide storage accessible over a network.
    • Peripherals:
      1. Input: Devices like keyboards, mice, and graphics tablets.
      2. Output: Such as monitors, printers, and speakers.
      3. Communication Devices: Like modems and routers.
    • Key Characteristics: Extendability, compatibility, and enhancement of primary device functionality.

As the boundaries of technology continue to expand, the nuanced understanding of these categories equips individuals and professionals with the knowledge to navigate and harness the digital landscape proficiently. Hardware, in its diverse forms, remains the backbone of our digital world, and its evolution promises even more transformative changes in the future.

Servers- One size does not fit all

Type of Server Cost Functions
Small In the Thousands
  1. Act as network servers for LANs
  2. Provide basic file and print services for PCs.
  3. Act as a Web Server by providing basic protocol and limited Web application support
Medium Tens of Thousands Act as a Web server by providing basic protocol and limited Web application support
Large Over $100k Used for server-based applications, such as databases, packaged applications, e-Commerce
Supercomputer Millions Used for high end server-based applications, such as databases, packaged applications, and e-Commerce

Handheld Devices

Vendor Product Name(s) (if applicable)
3Com Palm Pilot Series
Ericsson *
Hewlett-Packard *
Motorola *
Nokia *
Qualcomm *

Hardware - Client PCs

Vendor Product Name(s) (if applicable)
Acer (Intel) *
Apple Macintosh, iMac
Compaq (Intel) *
Dell (Intel) *
Gateway (Intel) *
Micron (Intel) *
Sony (Intel) *

Hardware - Server

Vendor Product Name(s) (if applicable)
Compaq (Digital) *
Compaq (Intel) *
Dell (Intel) *
Fujitsu *
Hewlett-Packard 9000, Intel
Hitachi *
IBM S390, AS/400, Intel, others
Siemens *
Silicon Graphics *
Sun Microsystems Sparc

Storage Devices

Vendor Product Name(s) (if applicable)
Compaq *
Data General *
Hitachi *
Sun Microsystems *

Please see the Resources section of the course to download a PDF file containing a complete list of all of the vendors and tools covered in this course, along with URLs to the vendor Websites.