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The WCPA Process

The WCPA process is synergistic, much in keeping with the web philosophy of shared resources. The various business units dictate which technologies and applications they want and need, and entrust the data center to provide the technology and to reliably and securely support those applications.

It takes from one week to more than three months for an application to wind its way through the WCPA process, depending on its size and process for deployment. Working in Internet time, this is about half as long as the CSPA process for an equivalent client/server application. In shortening the production acceptance cycle, we haven't cut corners, but rather found ways to use web technology to speed up the process. We begin the WCPA process by assigning a data center WCPA committee to work closely with the developers and users of a new application, preferably starting with its design stage. A WCPA web page is established for each project, serving as a focal point for communication during the entire process. Table 1 provides a summary of typical WCPA implementation schedules.

Table 1 Sample WCPA Implementation Schedule

Phase

Activity

Duration

% of WCPA Process

1

Information gathering

1 week

10%

2

Resource planning

2 weeks

20%

3

Implementation

6 weeks

50%

4

Production cutover

2+ weeks

20%


If you're a user or a developer of an application requiring data center staff support, your first contact is production control. We assign a data center operations analyst to oversee the WCPA process and manage the WCPA committee.

This committee consists of technical services, database administration, security engineering, WebTone engineering, Internet engineering, production control, and computer operations personnel from the data center, along with the application's project leader. The team collaborates to foster the application all the way through the alpha, beta, and pre-production stages. Once an application is finally ready for production use, the data center infrastructure takes charge of its implementation and security. Technical services controls root access to the application, regardless of where the application's server is located, and all changes must follow the change control process.

Preparing an application for production happens in four phases:

  • Phase I: Information gathering. This phase takes about a week to initially complete, and then continues as needed throughout the WCPA. During the initial phase, the user contacts production control and fills out the online WCPA questionnaire available on the production control web page. This questionnaire contains general information about the project, including its name' the names of its development group, owner, and leader; a description of the application; whether it needs a database; what type(s) of hardware it will use; whether it requires continuous (24x7) support; where users are located; production freeze; software distribution; WCPA questionnaire sign-off; and a production implementation date.

  • Phase II: Resource planning time. The production control operations analyst assigned to the project reviews the questionnaire. Based on the application's needs, he or she formulates an appropriate WCPA committee and works with technical services to define data center space, equipment, personnel allocations, and costs to support the project. The operations analyst also works on the WCPA questionnaire with the application's project leader. The project leader orders needed equipment with recommendations from technical services. This is where the production guide, which includes the services provided by the data center, the personalized communications, and the internal support agreement come into play. Here it's important to communicate the services provided, set expectations, and, more importantly, communicate the services not provided.

  • Phase III: Implementation period. This phase usually takes one month to complete, depending on the size and complexity of the application. Technical services personnel install the necessary hardware, software, and all supporting utilities on the server. The tape librarian is instructed to create tapes with labels for the backup process. The data center's database administration people work with the application developers to prepare the supporting database (if needed), and then relay disk partition information and database-creation scripts for installation and execution by technical services. Applications development installs the application and performs testing.

  • Phase IV: Testing. Finally, in phase IV, the application and all data center support services are brought online and tested for as long as it takes to ensure that the application can run reliably in a production environment. Also during this final phase, the operations analyst adds the application to automated systems that track server and application availability worldwide.

Once fully completed, an application's WCPA questionnaire, hardware, and software are maintained by the data center. Database administration maintains and upgrades the database and software, making any needed system changes such as adding dumps devices, increasing database sizes, and analyzing and reconciling maintenance errors. Production control manages job scheduling, restarts applications, and makes network support file (DNS, etc.) changes as necessary. Technical services maintains the operating system software and hardware, formats and repartitions disks, installs unbundled software, and maintains and configures system security and network services. Once the application is ready for production, the committee approves the WCPA for sign-off. It now becomes a working service-level agreement for supporting the application in production. Any deviations must go through the change control process.

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