The Services Model

White Paper by Bob Jones

Throughout much of the ‘90s, I taught distributed computing architecture concepts and issues to corporate audiences all over North America. I developed a visual model to help people understand how distributed information systems are structured. The model proved to be very effective, and still works quite well.

The Services Model

The Services Model is a way of structuring and categorizing technology that organizes distributed computing technology into a coherent overall picture.  Each layer provides services that the layers above it use.

The top layer is the domain of the End User. It is important to begin with the recognition that the end user is who we are doing all this work for. The end user is (and should be) “on top of the pyramid.”

User Interface Services

The User Interface Services layer interacts with the end user and supports the user in her or his daily work. Everything that the user directly interacts with sits at this layer. Internet browsers are excellent examples of programs that sit at this level in the pyramid.

Business Process Services

The Business Process Services layer supports the operation of the business as a whole. It provides business services like “create an invoice” or “check customer credit” to any program running at the User Interface Services layer. The Business Process Services layer presents a programmatic API rather than a character or graphical user interface to the User Interface Services layer.

Data Access Services

The Data Access Services layer consists of application logic that interfaces with database engines and file systems and hides the underlying physical location of the data from the business process logic that needs or provides the data.

Data Management Services

The Data Management Services layer is the home of all shared data, whether it belongs to a small workgroup or the entire enterprise. This layer provides data management functions to the layers above it. The “Data Management Services” layer is the home of all enterprise data. This is where the database engines reside.

The Data Management Services layer includes programs like Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange. Data Management Services will most often reside on servers, but can, in cases like Microsoft Access, also reside on user desktops.

Skills supporting the Data Management Services layer are data modeling, database installation, maintenance, tuning and operations, and distributed data management.

Operating Platform Services

The Operating Platform Services layer contains all of the computing hardware and operating systems from desktop personal computers to enterprise mainframes. The “Operating Platform Services” layer is the domain of the general purpose computers, from main frames to desktop platforms. This layer includes two sub-layers:

  • The hardware platforms
  • The operating systems which run on the hardware.

At this level lie products and technologies like Microsoft Windows, Linux and Max OS, and all the hardware system vendors like Dell, Hewlett Packard and IBM.

Typical skills that support the Operating Platforms layer are operating systems programming, maintenance, management and operations.

Also at this layer might be the skills necessary to install and configure large application products on servers or even on desktop systems.

Network Messaging Services

The Network Messaging Services layer contains the wiring, the network hardware and the communications protocols that allow computers to communicate and share data and processing loads.

The bottom or foundation layer provides “Connectivity Services.” This layer is responsible for providing all the tools and technology which enable the reliable transmission of electronic messages between all participating platforms.

Typical of the technology that sits at this level are network protocols like TCP/IP, and network tinker toys like bridges, routers & gateways.

The skills needed to service this layer are network architecture, installation and administration.

Infrastructure Layers

The bottom three layers of The Services Model comprise the Information Technology layers of the overall computing infrastructure. These layers are built by organizations like Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Dell, IBM, Hewlett Packard and the like. Management of these layers falls to system administrators. User businesses will buy and configure these layers, but almost never build them themselves.

The Infrastructure layers are generic across businesses. Operating Systems like Microsoft Windows (in all its variants) can be used by large enterprises or single users. They fit horizontally across the entire spectrum of users.

Application / Solution Layers

The top three layers of the pyramid are the application or solution layers. End-user programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and Quick Books and multi-user business applications like Microsoft Dynamics – Great Plains will also sit in these layers.

Application layers can be either horizontal (i.e. fitting large classes of users) or vertical (focused on specific niches of users. Most application layer software is “productized” so that the same code can be sold to multiple users; however, some users have specific needs that do not fit any existing products. In these cases, end-user business application developers will create custom solutions that fit the needs of a single business.

Custom software development is costly and risky,


About Bob Jones:

Bob Jones is an Information Systems Consultant specializing in analysis, design and development of custom software solutions for local businesses. Bob has been developing applications to support critical business processes for over forty years. Along with Dick DeWaard, Bob founded DeWaard & Jones Company in 2003 to provide high quality information Systems consulting services to businesses in Whatcom County. The business name was changed to The Socrates Group in October, 2007.

The Socrates Group is a Microsoft Certified Partner that specializes in creating business information system solutions using Microsoft .NET and SQL Server.

Bob is also quite active in an international men’s training organization called The Mankind Project ( which helps men lead lives of conscious intention, accountability and service.

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