Justice eyes thin clients

The Justice Department's Criminal Division is about to venture into object-oriented
case tracking, and on the horizon could be the government's first high-profile use of
network computers or NetPCs.


The division has begun a two-year migration from applications running on a decade-old
IBM Corp. AS/400 minicomputer to Oracle Corp. relational databases running on Sun
Microsystem Inc. servers, said Robert Owens, deputy director for management information
systems.


Using Oracle's ConText Cartridge 2.0 text search tool, the division's 750 lawyers,
paralegals and support staff members search over a TCP/IP network for unstructured items
such as telephone logs and meeting notes.


Because most staff members use their desktop systems only for e-mail and word
processing, "we're a perfect candidate for thin clients," Owens said.


The clients could be either network computers with no local storage or Network PCs,
which are scaled-down desktops that run Microsoft Windows on Intel processors.


The Justice Management Division, the department's central information technology shop,
will decide whether to deploy thin clients in the Criminal Division.


"That's the battle that's on now," Owens said.


Because of the AS/400's age and users' demands for more functions, Criminal Division
officials started searching more than two years ago for a new case-tracking system.


Five experienced Oracle software developers work in the division, so Oracle7 Release
7.3 got the nod over IBM DB2 and other database management systems, Owens said.


Users at Justice headquarters and in offices in Boston and Puerto Rico will access the
case-tracking data across a TCP/IP WAN administered by the Justice Management Division.


Oracle Forms will serve as the front end to the RDBMS residing on three Sun Ultra
Enterprise 2 midrange servers.


The division bought the Oracle software from the General Services Administration
schedule contract of DLT Solutions Inc. of Herndon, Va., and used Oracle consulting
services for the migration.


Training for about 100 paralegals and support personnel has taken as long as four hours
per person, Owens said.


The Criminal Division also developed an Oracle-based Administrative Division Management
Information Network procurement application to manage requests to a central procurement
shop.


ConText Cartridge 2.0 users can query ADMIN using keywords to find information about
products they have ordered. ADMIN has worked so well that another Justice division uses
it, Owens said.


The next big step is migrating to Oracle8 Universal Data Server, an object-oriented
RDBMS for disparate data types. Owens said it has been installed but not yet formally
evaluated.


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