Quicksilver map shows agencies how to proceed

E-government project leaders and architects now have a road map to follow to make sure their initiatives adhere to the Office of Management and Budget's rules for interoperability, scalability and reusability.

OMB and the CIO Council last month released two documents that should provide the groundwork for the 25 Quicksilver projects: the Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office's white paper on Component-Based Architecture, and the E-Government Enterprise Architecture Guidance from the CIO Council Architecture and Infrastructure Committee.

Bob Haycock, OMB's chief architect, said the documents will help project leaders and OMB's solution architects use plug-and-play components and interface more easily with similar systems and databases.

The component-based architecture white paper briefly defines the technology that project managers should consider, and gives a Web link to additional information.

'We wanted to stay at a level where we talk about technology standards and the types of components that could be used,' said Haycock, whose detail as chief architect has been extended through December. 'Agencies will decide the specific product standards to develop their own solution architecture.'

OMB is not mandating the use of these technologies, but it recommends the platforms because they are scalable, secure and interoperable, the paper said.

The paper has definitions of HTML technologies, Extensible Markup Language, Universal Description, Discovery and Integration, Microsoft .Net and Java2 Enterprise Edition platforms, and security standards. It lists the benefits, challenges and scope of a component-based architecture.

Some of the choices OMB made'especially .Net and J2EE'sparked debate among agency IT officials, Haycock said.

'I've had a couple of calls from people who were asking why we wanted to do it this way,' he said. 'We wanted an integrated application platform environment, and they wanted OMB to come down and mandate one or the other. We will not do that because it doesn't make sense from a number of perspectives.'

Haycock said most products from leading vendors are compatible with one of the two platforms.
The paper also listed examples of access channels for project architects to keep in mind when developing their systems.

Haycock said the paper lists specific products, such as BlackBerry handheld devices from Research in Motion Ltd. of Waterloo, Ontario, and Palm devices from Palm Inc. of Milpitas, Calif. E-government systems must be able to deliver information through different channels, such as wireless or Web services, without needing modification to the applications, he said.

'The essential benefit of the component-based architecture is you can use already-developed components that are industry-accepted standards without an interface,' Haycock said. 'Otherwise the interface has to be written and supported over time, and anytime you change the business logic or data transactions, you have to modify the system.'

Haycock said the architecture program office will release the service component reference model soon and the technical reference model by Dec. 31. Both models will help project architects develop the component architecture for their initiatives. The models lay out the underlying infrastructures and the reusable and interoperable components of the business processes.
The e-government guidance also will help project managers plan their initiatives' architectures.

Both papers can be found at www.feapmo.gov/index.htm.

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