Army sets its sights on making ammo supply data easy to track

AMROTS pools
data every six hours to give users up-to-date information about specific items.

The Army this month will hand over new software tools to 3,000 ammunition supply
personnel who have survived military downsizing.

“I’m trying to get them some tools that make their job easier in today’s
trying times,” said Geoff Myers, chief of the Army implementation team for the
Defense Department’s Joint Ammunition Management Standard System. Because the new
Virtual DB tools execute from the server, Army managers can deliver the software as
quickly as they get user accounts and passwords set up, said Walt Winn, the project
manager at contractor Enterworks Inc. of Ashburn, Va.

The Telos Corp. subsidiary developed the Virtual DB tools used in the Ammunition
Materiel Release Order Tracking System (AMROTS).

Depot personnel are savvier today than they used to be, Myers said. “They
understand the power of information and think they should have it at their fingertips, so
they’re a bit more demanding,” he said.

The AMROTS application server will cache some data in a warehouse to give the depot
teams up-to-date information about specific items they are tracking.

Every six hours, AMROTS will automatically refresh user profiles and standard queries
and move the information into a small data warehouse.

“When the users log in, they have fresh results and don’t have to wait for a
query every time,” Myers said.

The AMROTS application server is a 12-processor Hewlett-Packard Co. HP 9000/T520
running HP-UX and configured with 3.5G of memory and a 228G disk farm.

Virtual DB application middleware on the HP server fetches answers to user queries from
two older Cobol applications, the Commodity Command Standard System (CCSS) used by Army
inventory control point managers and the Standard Depot System (SDS) used by depot
personnel for shipping and receiving.

Both critical applications reside at DOD megacenters on Amdahl Corp. Model 5995
mainframes running IBM OS/390 and CICS 2.1.2.

AMROTS has C application programming interfaces to 56 CICS regions in the older CCSS
and SDS applications, which perform the full range of supply chain management functions
from acquisition to demilitarization, Myers said.

Supply personnel will need only a user identification, account password and Web browser
on their desktop PCs to learn the status of any munitions order.

Using IBM 3270 terminal emulation, “it’s too hard right now to log in and
keep multiple mainframe sessions up, so they just don’t do it,” Winn said.

AMROTS is giving depot personnel something else new: secure, single sign-on access to
CICS data.

The average AMROTS query returns a response in 20 seconds or less. That is excellent
time, Myers said, considering that many record-level queries must go out over DOD’s
Non-Classified IP Router Network to other megacenters running CCSS and SDS applications.

The AMROTS server, housed at the Army’s Rock Island, Ill., megacenter, will remain
there after the center ships its mainframes to St. Louis for data center consolidation.

“We’ll survive as a regional megacenter doing mainly client-server,”
Myers said. Mainframe consolidation will likely benefit AMROTS users, he added, because
“having all the SDS systems in a single megacenter should speed up query processing

Besides giving depot managers a tool to do their jobs better, AMROTS will help the Army
cut costs, Myers said. “We’re not rehosting applications, but because we’re
doing more work on the HP box and less work on the mainframe boxes, it automatically
starts to reduce our costs,” he said.

Even before completing his report comparing the costs of AMROTS with the old way of
doing things, Myers said he thinks the cost savings will be significant—at least a
5-to-1 ratio—because of fewer mainframe processing cycles, less costly relational
database software and lower storage costs.

The AMROTS team will keep working until they have cataloged the entire inventory of
late 1960s CCSS and SDS flat files still in their original IBM Data Management Routine

In doing so, they will map 6,600 CCSS and SDS files to the Virtual DB API. “Before
it’s over, we’re going to have a complete metacatalog of those file
structures,” Myers said.

Without a metacatalog, or data dictionary, it would be difficult for the Army to
migrate to joint systems such as the Joint Ammunition Management Standard System, Myers

Another metacatalog advantage comes in cleaning up corrupted data files. “If there
are specific problem children in the data,” Winn said, “the metacatalog lets us
go in, clean it up and repost it.”   


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