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Traditional (non-Web-based) single-user DSSs include every component on the user’s computer hard disks without communication components. IODSSs are based on the client-server architecture consisting of the client, server, and communication middleware. The server contains most of the DSS components, such as data, models, algorithms, etc. Using their Web browsers, users can access IODSSs deployed on the Web server. The data components and the model components do not have to be in the same physical locations. Web-based data warehousing has also become an important data management tool. Webbased DSSs are usually equipped with the tools to access the data residing on the data warehouses located on a Web server. They may be distributed anywhere on the company’s or trading partners’ network. Components of IODSSs include communication subsystems (extranets), hardware, software, people, and procedures.
There are three different types of extranets: private, public network, and virtual private network (VPN). Private extranets link the intranets of more than two organizations using private, leased lines. The most significant advantage of this type of network is its high security level. On the other hand, the high cost of private phone lines is a significant drawback. An alternative approach to using private extranets is to subscribe to commercial network services, which are completely private networks that are isolated from the public Internet solely for the use of network subscriber traffic. Public network extranets allow outside parties to selectively access the information resources of the sponsoring organization through the Internet, not through private, leased lines. The purpose of an IODSS is to increase consortium competitiveness of all consortium members. To achieve this goal, supranets can be used for building IODSSs using public network extranets, using virtual private networks, or subscribing to commercial service networks.
IODSSs can use commercial network services such as the ANX network. The ANX network was originally designed for use for the automotive industry. Now its technology is being extended and applied to many different industries to facilitate information exchange, communications, and decision making among trading partners. In the case of subscribing to the commercial service network, the organization’s networks must be configured to be connected to the commercial network via a system integrator. By subscribing to the commercial network services, many cumbersome tasks in managing the security of a network, such as detecting intrusion, maintaining confidentiality and integrity of data, etc., will be managed by the network service providers.
There are three models of public network extranets based on the use of a public network (including the Internet) to link/open an organization’s intranet to its trading partners. The secured intranet access model allows the business partner to log directly onto a company’s intranet to access most of it. The highest level of network security planning, as well as a high level of trust in the partners, is necessary to implement this network architecture. The specialized application model allows the partners to gain limited access to the intranet from the extranet site. A wide variety of extranet applications, both packaged and custom developed, are available over an extranet. These include order processing, database access, customer service and support, e-mail, and other communication tools. The electronic commerce model is well suited to deal with a large number of partners (more than several hundred companies) using e-commerce security and transaction processing techniques. For more information on the three models of public network extranets, see Bort and Felix (1997).
An extranet links the intranets of distributed organizations (trading partners) for the purpose of conducting business. The link can be made through a direct lease line from intranet to intranet or through a secure line over the Internet. A dedicated Internet connection is necessary to connect the corporate headquarters to the Internet, while a remote salesperson may use a dial-up local Internet service provider to access a sales database at headquarters.
The Web technology used in an extranet includes the following built-in technologies: electronic mail, group collaborations, business partner extensions, real-time audio and video communication, information publishing and sharing, network navigation, full-text indexing and searching, and directories (Baker, 1997). In addition, IODSS software needs to install Web-based groupware (Web groupware) to facilitate diverse communication and decision-making functions under different scenarios: same time and same place (brainstorming, voting, outlining, writing), same time and different place (text-based chatting, video-/ audioconferencing, whiteboard/application sharing), and different time and different place (e-mail, listserve, and threaded discussions, organizing workflow). Depending on the network configuration of the organization, when an organization becomes a subscriber of network service companies such as ANXeBusiness Corporation, they will have access to a multitude of applications that are hosted in subscriber data centers, including applications that support engineering, product design, purchasing, logistics, materials handling, financial transactions, supply chain management, and many other mission-critical time-sensitive business processes. Readers are referred to http://www.anx.com/ for more information on the services.
An essential element of IODSS software is the management science (MS)/ operations research (OR) model software. A recent trend in this area is that many MS/OR software developers are using Web technologies for the design of user interface. Another noteworthy trend is the use of application service providers (ASPs) for delivery of DSS models. Rather than purchasing and installing the software on the server of their organizations, it can be rented on a per-use basis from an ASP who hosts MS/OR applications and provides secure access over the Internet (Shim et al., 2002).
Several researchers have successfully developed Web-based optimization tools and deployed them on the Web. Some examples include WWW-NIMBUS systems (nondifferentiable interactive multiobjective bundle-based optimization system). This is the first interactive multiobjective optimization system on the Internet, solving nonlinear problems involving nondifferentiable and nonconvex functions (Miettinen & M kel , 2000). The second example is Web-HIPRE (hierarchical preference analysis on the Web) system. This is a Java Applet for multiple criteria decision analysis for individual/group decision making with diverse weighing methods including analytic hierarchy process, value function, multi-attribute value theory, etc. (Mustajoki & H m l inen, 2000). There are other group and negotiation support systems such as joint gains (Kettunen & H m l inen, 1999) and INSPIRES for negotiation support (Kersten, 1996).
Inter-organizational DSSs permit the largest number of participants to share data and information, support communication and decision-making activities from participating organizations anywhere over the global networks of intranets, extranets, and the Internet. The procedure component includes procedures for effective use of all hardware, software, and communication systems (extranets), as well as rules for conducting threaded discussions using electronic bulletin board systems and procedures for organizing workflow, etc.
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