DOT uses X.500 to mesh its four messaging systems

The system integrates
e-mail and provides communication links to DOT’s intranet, the Internet and
electronic commerce.

The Transportation Department’s new e-mail system is letting
employees in the department’s 14 agencies communicate with one another, DOT officials

“We had problems with our e-mail system in 1994,” said George Ramick,
Transportation’s messaging and Internet manager, at the recent E-Gov ’98
conference in Washington.

“Our employees were complaining the mail they sent wasn’t arriving, that they
weren’t getting their e-mail and what worked for them last week isn’t working
now,” he said. “We wanted a reliable e-mail system that improved our
employees’ business quality of life.”

Transportation’s 14 agencies were using four e-mail systems: Novell GroupWise,
Lotus cc:Mail, Microsoft Mail and Microsoft Exchange.

The agencies still use these systems, but Transportation’s new X.500 directory
allows the disparate systems to talk to each other.

“Our goals were simple,” Ramick said. “We wanted a user-friendly system
that allows employees to communicate across departments. We also wanted to use existing
systems to create a departmentwide system that delivered e-mail regardless of the system
being used. Finally, we wanted a system that deployed a standard syntax and that could be

The project was daunting, he said. DOT has more than 100,000 employees, including
workers at the Federal Aviation Administration, the Coast Guard and the Federal Highway
Administration. About 73,000 employees sent up to 8,000 messages a day in 1994.

“We wanted an e-mail system that in two years could handle more than 90,000 users
and 10,000 messages a day,” Ramick said.

The project was divided into two steps over a four-year period. In Step 1,
Ramick’s crew implemented quick fixes to current e-mail systems. Transportation chose
Control Data Systems Inc.’s X.500 directory, and in Step 2 workers installed the
X.500 applications.

The department immediately developed a flexible plan to upgrade hardware, software and
the communications infrastructure, Ramick said. Transportation agencies are linked to
Washington headquarters via a 100-Mbps fiber-optic backbone.

As the main mail hub, Transportation is using dual 250-MHz Sun Microsystems Enterprise
3000 servers with 1G of RAM and running SunSoft Solaris 2.6. The systems have 25G of RAID

Four 133-MHz IBM T350-P90 PCs—with 64M of RAM, 1G hard drives and Microsoft
Windows NT 4.0—act as filters between the mail hub’s X.500 service and the
agencies’ four mail systems.

The Coast Guard does not use the mail hub but has its own Sun server in Martinsburg,
W.Va. The Coast Guard server has a direct link to the Washington server via the
fiber-optic backbone.

Today, Transportation has a system that integrates e-mail and provides communication
links to the department’s intranet, the Internet and to electronic commerce services,
Ramick said.

DOT will upgrade the X.500 directory incrementally by adding new attributes. The
department plans to add printing distribution, personnel, phone book, security, inventory
and business partner information, he said.

All the services should be available DOT-wide by 2001 at a cost of $800,000, Ramick

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