As a network engineer, you would probably be rather upset if another department in your company purchased a software...
application for use on the department's desktops without checking with the IT department first. Your department would be expected to support an application that it did not approve. For all you know, the application could have serious compatibility problems, be riddled with bugs, or might even have been known to carry a spyware payload.
There are serious consequences to allowing anyone to install an application that has not been reviewed by the IT department. You would probably never let a department in your company purchase applications that you had not reviewed, and yet in some companies it is common practice for the in-house software development staff to develop and deploy applications without coordinating their activities with the network support staff.
Applications running on workstations
For example, if the application is to be installed locally on users' workstations, then it will probably be up to you to make sure the workstations have adequate memory and hard disk space to run the newly developed application. Depending on the type of application, external components such as drivers or the Microsoft Database Engine may be required. These types of components can sometimes interfere with other things on the workstation if they are not implemented properly. Therefore, it would be beneficial to both the network administration staff and the development staff to outline the application's requirements before the application is actually developed.
Applications running on network servers
If the newly developed application is going to be run directly from a network server, there are other issues that must be addressed. For example, you'll have to decide which server will host the application. You will also have to estimate how much of an impact the application will have on the server's resources and how much bandwidth will be consumed by users accessing the application.
Application data storage and backup
Regardless of whether or not an application is going to run directly on a workstation or on a server, the data that is produced by the application needs to be one of your top considerations. Because it will be the responsibility of the administrative staff to store the data, you'll need to meet with the developers long before the application is ever deployed to discuss how much data the application is expected to generate. Only then will you be able to plan for long-term storage of this data.
Just as your department will be responsible for storing the data related to the new application, it is also going to be up to your department to ensure that the data is backed up on a regular basis. Depending on how much data the application is expected to produce, your current backup solution may or may not be adequate. You may find that you need to invest in a tape drive with a higher capacity, or possibly even in a backup solution that is specifically dedicated to the new application.
While you are considering the volume of data that the application will produce, you must also consider how this data will affect your backup window. There are usually only a certain number of hours each night during which a backup can be performed. You need to determine whether it is realistic to expect this additional data to be backed up within the backup windows using your existing backup solution.
Questions for pre-development
Naturally, the specifics of the development process and the pre-development meetings will vary considerably, depending upon the type of application that is being developed, the size of the company, and the corporate culture. Even so, I have prepared a set of questions that you can ask your developers during various stages of the development process. Not all of these questions will be appropriate for every situation, but they should be enough to help you think of questions that are appropriate for your own situation.
Applications developed in-house can affect the network administration staff in a number of ways, even if the development staff is taking responsibility for supporting those applications. As such, it is important that both departments discuss the applications requirements and expected performance long before the first line of code is ever written. It is equally important that the development staff communicate with the network administration staff as the application's development progresses. This will help the network administration staff to stay on top of any changes to the timeline or the application's requirements.
About the author:
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for Microsoft, CNET, ZDNet, TechTarget, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at www.brienposey.com.