is a daunting task. Gordon's staff uses Tivoli, an enterprise management software program, to distribute software and keep application software in sync with operating systems. But as reliable as it and other management products are, they are no good if workers have turned off their PCs. IT staff must also support more than 100 notebook PCs, which have to be plugged into the network in order to have their software upgraded.

No Surprise

Besides issues of availability and security, client/server requires training for both users and IT staff. For many government agencies, their first exposure to automation usually comes with client/server computing. Workers have to learn how to use a mouse, navigate with Windows and comprehend the functions of core applications. For workers accustomed to performing with paper, the computer can provide a real culture shock. Similarly, IT staff, with years of experience running mainframes, must now rebuild their skills to include the intricacies of client/server.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that some organizations, which embraced client/server wholeheartedly in the early 90s, are now having second thoughts. Companies that deployed dozens, even hundreds of servers, are planning to re-centralize some or even all of their distributed systems. In a survey of 250 IS managers by Information Week magazine ["Distributed Systems: Back to the Middle," Sept. 29, 1997], more than 60 percent said they plan to centralize distributed systems. The prime reasons for doing so include easier management, lower costs, improved security, increased performance and simpler storage strategies.

Government agencies, which have been slower to deploy client/server than the private sector, appear less inclined to centralize their distributed systems. But they acknowledge that client/server has to be approached in a way that calls for balancing flexible systems development with structured systems management. "Client/server gives managers a lot of freedom," commented Gordon. "But by giving them freedom, you take away a lot of the structure that helps somebody work through the process."

December Table of Contents