Halls of justice add net hubs

Under the IBM contract for turnkey WANs and LANs, a hub was set up for each of the 11
judicial circuits, equipped with a router from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.
Courthouse LANs feed into the hubs.

 "We used the FTS 2000 contract for dedicated leased lines to build the
WAN," Hixson said.

 Since the expiration of the 1991 contract, the courts have built more LANs with
equipment bought from a Navy contract with PRC Inc. 

Although fewer than half of the 800-plus federal courthouses are wired so far, the
completed sites serve about 85 percent of the 28,000 users in the court system, Hixson

 The TCP/IP WAN runs over leased 56-kilobit/sec lines. The LANs use Novell Inc.'s IPX
protocol, although each site decides the configuration of its LAN, said Mark Samblanet,
head of business development for Telos.

 For the first DCN contract, Telos will use primarily Evolution and Revolution
servers from Advanced Logic Research Inc. of Irvine, Calif., with LinkBuilder hubs from
3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., and Cisco routers.

 One new contract offering will be wireless LAN products from Aironet Wireless
Communications Inc. of Fairlawn, Ohio. Wireless networks make connectivity less invasive,
Samblanet said.

 "Many [courthouses] are historic buildings where they don't want you punching
holes in the walls and running wires all over the place," he said.

 Under DCN, court users will exchange files electronically and search district
databases. Electronic files will move from a district court to an appeals court as a case
progresses. At the appeals level, each judge on a panel can receive electronic files
immediately regardless of location.

 Data sharing should improve court management. "That's where a lot of the
exchange of court data comes about," Hixson said.  

There are no central databases for U.S. courts, but most districts have centralized
databases on Unix servers for each court division, such as bankruptcy or probation. The
new network, when complete, will support more distributed databases, Hixson said.

 "The newer databases all look to the client-server approach, where you have a
certain amount of intelligence at the client end and use TCP/IP to connect," Hixson
said. "There might be two or three database servers serving up portions of the data.
That's where the market is forcing us to go, and that is why it is critical for us to have
the network in place."

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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