Since the invention of the first ecumenical electronic computer over years ago, computer technology has undergone a revolution to emerge as a vital tool in all dimensions of life. Computer technology has revolutionized the business world incredibly. Things will never be the same again with the numerous steps that this technology has taken in a very short time. Fortunately, the revolution does not seem to cease, and new inventions and modifications emerge every other day to enhance computer technology. Today, personal computers with high performance, large memory, and large disk storage are available at affordable prices. This change originates from improved technology and instauration in computer design courtesy of peachy innovative minds in the field. It is from the same innovation that computer architecture came to be, but what is computer architecture?
According to Hennessy and Paterson, computer architecture is the abstract design and the cardinal functional structure of a computer organization (8). It is the design and operational account of how a computer operates riveting on the processes that the central processing unit (CPU) uses to perform internally and access information stored in the memory. Computer architecture may also include the systems and processes involved in selecting and linking hardware constituents to create efficient computer systems with high performance and cost-effectiveness (Dumas 6). However, this technology has traveled the road of adversity and has stood the test of time to be where it is today. Hennessy and Paterson concur that advancement in computer technology has not been very consistent with different impediments standing on the way more than often (2). Regardless of all these deterrents, this technology is outstanding in its function and operations. This takes us to the next topic on how computer architecture operates.
Literature on Computing Architecture
Essentially, computer architecture comprises three key subcategories: Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), micro-architecture also called computer organization, and finally system design (Murdocca & Heuring 151). ISA is the non-figurative image of a computer system, recognized by instructions and data stored in the CPU. It serves as a bridge between software and hardware (Sekhar 15). This forms part of a program including data formats, bits size, and addresses among other components of machine language. On the other hand, computer organization or micro-architecture describes a lower level of computer systems that support ISA (Johnson para, 5). Fundamentally, micro-architecture defines how constituents of a system function individually and collectively to enforce ISA operations. Different elements of a system are interlinked to work in unison to the benefit of ISA. System design on its part deals with hardware components inside a computer organization. Hardware components carry out diverse functions including connecting computer bushes and permutations, controlling the flow of data to and from the main memory, reading and writing information from memory without involving the CPU, and use of multiple CPUs within a single computing system among others (Murdocca & Heuring 159). A computer system cannot operate without the implementation and coordination of the above-mentioned components. This takes us to implementation in computer architecture.
Implementation is the design process that engineers use to convert ISA and micro-architecture into hardware (Nadhan para, 6). The implementation process occurs in stages broken down into three segments. Logic implementation is the first one and it refers to the design of micro-architecture components that register data transfer. Circuit implementation describes the design of indispensable components like gates and latches to improve performance. Physical implementation entails routing of cables that connect different circuit components (Cragon 3). After implementation, the computing system becomes usable in services like storing and retrieving information. This happens following a sequence of events as described next.
After putting a command into the computer system, the processor takes the information and data, processes it, and takes it back to the processor to update the process state (Brain para 6). This instruction interpretation cycle is involved in data retrieval from a computing system. According to Goodwine, in a computing system, some wires interconnect all the elements in the system and this forms the CPU bus (para 3). As a rule, the system can only allow information transfer between two devices at a time. The system’s memory contains stored executable information. The CPU retrieves this information and avails it to the user when needed. The CPU can also access other peripheral devices facilitating the exchange of information. This forms the basis on which designers based the ULMS computer architecture. Muller and Paul point out that the CPU sends requests to these peripheral devices and waits for a response (55). This transfer relies on the CPU bus as mentioned above.
Layers in Computing Architecture
In building computing architecture designs, designers come up with several layers to enhance the efficiency of the systems. The elementary layers include interface or application layer, process or application layer, domain or business logic layer, and finally persistence or data storage layer (Hoganson, 44). What are the components of each layer and are there varieties from which an individual can choose?
The interface layer covers access to systems logic (Ambler para, 5). This interactive layer provides a graphical interface for users. Designers tailor this layer to enable access systems and gather the information that they want. There are two subcategories in this layer: user interface (UI) subcategory and system interface (SI) subcategory. The system interface subcategory covers access to external computing systems by one’s system (Steen 12). This allows owners of a system to access information from several outside sources and is very vital in business operations. User interface subcategory enables people to access one’s system. This forms a very crucial component in business operations. For instance, customers can access systems run by businesses and retrieve information say for purchase. Through the same operations, customers can place their orders and receive a response from suppliers.
The domain layer /application layer enforces issues that are opposite to one’s business (“IHSF Architectural layers” para 4). This layer consists of programs that highlight the products or services of a particular organization or business entity. Essentially, this layer presents business entities with opportunities to advertise their products and services. This layer offers a customer or a client all the information they want to know about a particular company or business.
The business logic is the most important layer and it covers three areas: application control, data access, and application communication. Application communication enables programs to interchange status and master data. This unifies the work of application processes (Cabral para, 6). Data access on the other hand allows people to locate data regardless of its physical location. This level allows data retrieval, modification, deletion, annotation, and all other practices applicable to data. Application control involves creating an environment that allows people to execute programs (Mukhar, Zenelak, Weaver & Crume 6).
The persistence layer is the fourth layer in computing architecture. According to Duggan, this layer covers the potentiality to store, delete or retrieve information or objects without exposing particulars of the underlying machinery. In this layer, there are various options like object schemes and database schemes (23). It depends on the designers’ favorite scheme depending on the purpose of the systems they want to develop.
Overview of the architectures as applied to ULMS bikes
Initially, there was completely no application of computing architectures in the ULMS Bikes. This is because they communicated with customers through telephone, fax, or email. This was a tiresome process given that customers had to speak to the sales manager to negotiate for the price. The sales manager then would send the orders to the logistics department for approval and verification of prices among other purchasing requirements. The information would go back to the sales manager who determined which bike parts they would sell to different clients. This unnecessarily long process has no place and time in today’s competitive market. For companies to remain afloat and retain a competitive edge in the market, they have to adopt newer technologies that will put them at par with their competitors.
ULMS bikes have been tried by implementing an information system developed in 1997 based on MS Windows and MS access DBMS. However, this system does not apply computing architecture efficiently. The current system stores data about customers, categories of available bikes, information about suppliers, orders, employees’ information, and finance among other elemental company information. This is a major effort towards computer architecture but still, they have a long way to go. For instance, they update database information manually depending on completed deals. This is unlike contemporary computing architecture where information update is instant as transactions proceed. The current information system thus does not utilize modern computing architecture fully. This is because there are ambiguities in the way transactions take place. It also takes time for customers to receive their goods and this extends to over a month for a client to receive a customized bike. Computing architecture should solve these problems.
The planned e-business system brings to light the real touch of computing architecture courtesy of the great minds behind the proposed system. The first move of applied computing architecture here will be creating a public website and an intranet. From the case study, it is clear that the proposed system will rely largely on the different layers of architecture discussed above. The designers will construct the website as an interface for customers or retailers. This is in line with the first layer of computing architecture. Customers will access the information that they want to know about bikes and will be in a position to place their orders and follow them appropriately. This complies completely with computing architecture as discussed above. The system will offer customers the option of including specifications of the bikes they want if not available from the website.
Through the proposed system, ULMS suppliers will access information about sales and make their productions based on market dynamics of demand and supply. This is the real-time application of computing architecture. If the proposed plan goes through to completion, business in ULMS will never be the same again. This forms the first layer of computing architecture, that is, the interface layer.
The setting up of an intranet will represent the second layer of computing architecture and that is the application layer. According to Mitchell, an intranet is an aggregation of personal computer systems in an organization (para, 2). The computer systems have networks linked together to facilitate communication in an organization. Intranet facilitates data sharing between different workgroups and avails information about employees working in an organization. At this point, ULMS Bikes will process the received orders through an online sales team. After approving orders, this sales team will process them further by checking stock levels. This is a typical e-business solution, which does not merely involve developing a captivating website, but goes further to give a rigorous approach to various layers of computing architecture.
The proposed ULMS system has also put into consideration the dynamics of computing architecture. For instance, customers will be able to create new codes for products that are not available in stock. Customers will also specify their needs like color or any other specification they want for their bikes.
ULMS bikes’ proposed project fits well with the third computing architecture level and that is the business logic level. Business logic describes algorithms that encode business objects and model real-life business policies (McLaughlin para, 2). For instance, adding late fees for delinquent bikes. The company is set to keep details about customers’ delivery and credit control information. This makes operations easier because it will be easy to know which customer made delayed payments among other pertinent issues. It will automatically update the sales team on how regular particular customers make purchases and by using this information; they will reward these specific customers. The management will be a better place in selecting suppliers depending on price, quality, and alacrity in delivery because all this information will be readily available with the implementation of the proposed system.
Under this third level of architecture, the three options that exist are all viable in the ULMS bikes proposed project. Application communication for instance will enable information exchange between different departments in the business entity. The sales team will be in a position to collaborate with the promotion team in awarding loyal customers. The data access option will allow customers to locate the items that they want regardless of their position. At this level, data will be modified, deleted, annotated and all other processes applicable to data will take place at this level.
The next layer that fits well in the ULMS’ proposed project is the persistence layer. According to Johnston, the persistence layer provides a platform on which data transfer between catalogs and Java objects takes place (para, 2). In the ULMS system, employees’ details will be available to management. This will indicate which employee served a particular customer and the transactions that occurred. Employees will have codes that will only be available to management and personnel manager. The move makes the easy running of operations in the company. The management will also monitor sales and assess the general performance of the company just by the click of a mouse. For instance, the manager would like to see business performance broken down in the four quarters of the year for evaluation purposes. This will be possible through the implementation of the proposed e-business solution system. For marketing purposes, it will be easy to develop a strategy based on the available data.
Recommendation for the best architecture for ULMS Bikes
To determine the best computing architecture for ULMS Bikes, it is important to look at the nature of their business. This is a business entity that targets both domestic and international markets for their bikes. It consists of 60 employees and is located in England. Most of its business is through retailers across 15 countries in the world. Its suppliers are mainly within the United Kingdom but some parts like wheels and gears come from Italy. The challenge that faces ULMS Bikes right now is to remain afloat in the competitive market. One of the impediments is taking a lot of time to process transactions coupled with competition from cheaper bikes of the same quality from Asia. These challenges put us in a better place to suggest the best architecture for ULMS Bikes as discussed in the next paragraph.
Firstly, the best architecture would consider creating an interface level in the system. Given the nature of the work that ULMS does, customers need to access information online about the types of bikes available on stock. This would involve creating a website and intranet to serve this purpose. This is because the business of ULMS Bikes business relies entirely on availing information to customers who then place their orders to initiate a transaction. At this point, only one option, that is, the user interface is viable. The user interface will enable people to access the ULMS system and retrieve information about prices and existing stock.
A domain layer would also be crucial in designing the best system for ULMS Bikes. This layer would incorporate pertinent issues in the business entity. The issue of creating an intranet comes in handy at this point.
The best architecture would also consider implementing a business logic layer in the system that would incorporate data access, application communication, and application control. Data access will allow customers to access data and make recommendations where necessary. This would include the option of creating codes for new products that do not exist in the current stock. By so doing, ULMS Bikes would expand its boundaries and cater to diversified needs as dictated by customers. Application control would create an environment suitable for people to execute data from their database.
The persistence layer would be the last layer of this system. This level would offer a platform on which management would monitor the performance of the business and employees at large. It will also enable the removal of data without displaying information to the underlying storage technology. This system would ensure that every departmental office owns a private computer to access the intranet. They would also consider improving internet access for the smooth running of business operations.
Computer technology has undergone several critical changes and this has brought a revolution that has enhanced business operations greatly. One of the areas that have experienced the real-time computer technology revolution is computing architecture. This architecture has changed operations in business for the better with improved communication that comes with it. In the case study about ULMS Bikes, initially, there was no application of computing architecture. However, the company incorporated some elemental computing architecture in 1997 based on MS Windows and MS access. This is not efficient because at some point they update their databases manually. The proposed e-business system will be highly effective if implemented as proposed. It incorporates up-to-date computing architecture with several layers that are critical in any business entity.
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