DOE gives systems makeover

The Energy Department is giving a major face-lift to information systems for its
Chicago Operations Office, upgrading servers, workstations and PCs, and constructing an
intranet that will tie all the pieces together.


"We're hoping to have the intranet up and running this spring," said Ronald
Kuziel, systems design and analysis manager for SVRS of Argonne, Ill., DOE's contractor.


The intranet will link DOE labs from Long Island, N.Y., to Idaho. It will start by beta
testing the latest release of e:Folders software from the IntraBlocks division of
IntegrationWare Inc. of Deerfield, Ill.


The first intranet functions will be file transfer and a bulletin board. Later, human
resources and budget functions will be added, but existing systems at the Chicago
Operations Office in Argonne have to be brought up to speed to handle them, officials
said.


The Chicago office is defined not by location but by activity. Its facilities focus on
nuclear energy research, Kuziel said, and they include Brookhaven National Laboratory in
Long Island, N.Y.; the Environmental Measurements Laboratory in Manhattan; the Argonne
West Laboratory in Idaho; and the Argonne National Laboratory and New Brunswick Laboratory
in Argonne.


The labs now connect via Synchronous Optical Network OC-3 connections to the
Environmental Science Network, an IP network of government and university facilities. The
connectivity is good, Kuziel said, but the disparate platforms and lack of open
applications make collaboration difficult.


DOE's two-year upgrade began last year. Until 1996, the office was operating with 1989
technology, Kuziel said, and only a year ago did it install Microsoft Windows 3.1 on PCs.
Now the plan is to skip Windows 95 and go to Windows NT 4.0. Its servers will receive an
upgrade to Novell NetWare 4.11 and Novell Directory Services.


DOE labs are run by contractors, and even within sites, incompatible platforms are in
use.


"Everybody has their own little world," Kuziel said. An intranet will make it
easier for labs under the Chicago Operations Office to share data.


IntraBlocks' e:Folders suite manages and distributes information and documents over an
intranet. Version 2.0, which goes into beta testing this winter, has 12 applications
presented as objects that can be stored in a user-definable, hierarchical-folder
structure. Each folder can have a security profile for members of virtual workgroups.


The suite works over connections ranging from 14.4-kilobit/sec dial-up to high-speed
Internet links. Users can have either 16- or 32-bit Microsoft Corp. or Netscape
Communications Corp. browsers. E:Folders supports relational databases from Microsoft,
Oracle Corp. and Sybase Inc. It sells for $4,995 per server for any number of users.


"We are licensing the source code so we can use the library and tools without
starting from scratch," Kuziel said.


The intranet might be in its early stages, but goals for the network are clear. One is
to develop a budget system. The Chicago Operations Office now uses the Discus financial
application from SCH Technologies of Cincinnati, which keeps track of spending but not of
the budget.


Eventually a Sybase relational database will do the budget tracking, and data from the
two financial applications will be merged into a daily Hypertext Markup Language report on
the intranet.


DOE is switching to the PeopleSoft Human Resources Management System for Federal
Government from PeopleSoft Inc., but the Pleasanton, Calif., company has few intranet
solutions, Kuziel said. He hopes to use e:Folders to develop scheduling, training and
other forms for human resources.


There are still privacy issues to work out for the human resources applications, but an
interactive bulletin board for researchers could go up soon, replacing the current Lotus
cc:Mail bulletin board.


Kuziel said cc:Mail has not been a good platform for the bulletin board. Not all the
labs use cc:Mail, and the mail administrator must manage the bulletin board. It does not
require the same security as the mail system, however.


"A bulletin board is basically public," Kuziel said, and it should be a good
initial application for the intranet.


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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