OMB advocates J2EE, .Net for e-gov

The Office of Management and Budget is recommending that the architects of the 24 e-government initiatives use Java 2 Enterprise Edition or Microsoft .Net as underlying technology.

The bottom line, OMB officials said, is that agencies need to use common sense when it comes to the technologies they select. Those technologies need to be open, reusable, interoperable, stable, portable and secure, said Debra Stouffer, OMB's federal enterprise architecture program manager.

Stouffer, who is near the end of a 90-day detail at OMB from the Housing and Urban Development Department, said her office advocates the J2EE and .Net development frameworks because they mesh well with e-government project needs.

'These two are the only prominent ones that are relatively proven in industry,' she said.

'They offer the capabilities that we outlined in our requirements. They are open technologies with proven industry standards.'

Stouffer earlier this month detailed the component architecture and the business reference model at a luncheon in Washington sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Managers.

The business reference model establishes the framework on which the component architecture can be built, Stouffer said. It outlines the business lines, or chief missions, each agency engages in and how each line relates to programs at other agencies.

Once the business reference was finished, OMB considered what technologies would make up the component architecture. Stouffer's team rated J2EE and .Net on a 24-point scale that looked at how well they work with hardware and software that provide Web services, and File Transfer Protocol and e-mail services. J2EE received a higher rating in both application categories, earning 22 of 24 points for Web services.

J2EE got a higher rating than .Net for Web services because it can work with a wider range of operating systems and can more easily adopt new features, Stouffer said. It also outscored .Net for e-mail and FTP because of its maturity and OS independence.

OMB based the rankings on what it called 'foundational criteria''how well the technologies provide a basis for e-government projects, Stouffer said.

'The whole purpose of this was to provide coupling platforms with data formats and messaging protocols to the solution architects,' she said.

Established, mature

The preferred architecture, Stouffer said, would be to adopt J2EE using Extensible Markup Language over the Simple Object Access Protocol.

'J2EE is an established, mature technology and by far the more open of the two,' she said. 'The fact that it is multiplatform is key.'

Microsoft's .Net, on the other hand, works only with one platform and needs to mature, Stouffer said. But she added that applications are easier to develop in .Net because it uses multiple languages such as Cobol, C++ and Visual Basic.

'We are pointing out the disadvantages and advantages of each, not recommending one or the other,' Stouffer said. 'Agencies must consider other things besides the technology, such as how the new system relates to your legacy system or what other systems must be integrated.'

She added that the ratings can lessen the distance agencies must travel for their projects. Agencies should consider factors such as cost, current technologies in use and difficulty of building applications, Stouffer said.

OMB will continue to analyze new technologies for the e-government initiatives and may adjust its ratings, she said. For instance, she added, Microsoft is working to improve .Net's security.

As the projects are being built, Stouffer said, OMB will categorize what services agencies are providing, creating a database for other agencies to use as a reference.

'Industry does this all the time,' she said. 'They build something for one agency, log and reference it, and use the component again and again. This is a way of making more money without having to spend money on new systems each time.'

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