Marines begin NT migration

The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., last year began moving
its messaging platform from Banyan Systems Inc. Vines 8.5 and StreetTalk 8.5 to Microsoft
Windows NT Server 4.0, Exchange 5.5, and Outlook 97 and 98.


The change will give users a chance to develop more collaborative applications after
they have learned the new software. Also making the change to NT are database and common
storage file applications, said Capt. Bob Hendricks, assistant data systems officer for
the expeditionary force.


It took a year to upgrade the force’s LAN infrastructure and two weeks to
replicate user accounts from StreetTalk to Exchange Enterprise Edition 5.5, Hendricks
said. The infrastructure upgrade involved changing LANs from 10Base-2 Ethernet to switched
Fast Ethernet.


The expeditionary force, which maintains 520 PCs and workstations, handled its own NT
deployment independently of Camp Pendleton. There were no transition problems with the
force’s five Compaq ProLiant 5000 servers, which are 166- to 233-MHz dual Pentium
machines with 128M to 256M of RAM, Hendricks said.


Four servers have dual 8G hard drives, and the fifth has a 90G RAID array.


A 150-user classified network has three separate Digital Equipment Corp. servers
running NT, Hendricks said.


From mess staff to commanders, users are now devising ways to collaborate with NT and
Outlook. “It’s overwhelming to go from an MS-DOS environment to a powerful
collaborative OS,” he said. “There was not a lot of functionality in Banyan
besides print services, shared file services and e-mail.”


An X.400 e-mail directory connection to the Marines’ Quantico, Va., headquarters
pulls user names and e-mail addresses over from Banyan StreetTalk to Microsoft
Exchange—even nonstandard names, Hendricks said.


One problem with StreetTalk was that when it replicated e-mail addresses over the WAN
while a particular server was down, that server’s users would be missing from the new
directory, said Col. Mike Cooper, the Marines’ deputy chief information officer.


“We like the native IP flavor [of NT] as well as the industry support” for
Microsoft products, he said.


Five NT deployment teams, each made up of eight civilians, contractors and Marines, are
on the road full-time managing the Corps’ NT migration. At the same time, 2,400
civilian employees and Marines are taking a one-week course in how to build an NT network,
perform basic troubleshooting, do basic backup and restore, and add and delete users, said
Maj. John R. Burnette, head of the NT migration project at Quantico’s Network
Operations Center.


Migrations usually occur during off-hours, and 50 to 100 user accounts are added each
night, Burnette said.


Sites get 24-hour telephone support. A technician arrives within four hours of a
support call that cannot be resolved by phone, Burnette said.


Over time, all corps users will attend a four-hour Microsoft Outlook class.


“Our goal is to make this a command migration, so the commands can take care of
themselves later” through their trained systems administrators, Burnette said. Some
migration problems have occurred when administrators tried to do things differently from
the standard methods, he said.


After receiving training, many administrators leave the Corps. “There are many,
many cases where we could outsource. We just have to admit that’s the way it
is,” Cooper said.


The service has operated about 2,400 Banyan servers and hopes to retire about 75
percent of them, Burnette said.


The Marines’ NT platforms can each host 400 to 1,200 users compared with about 250
for a server running Vines from Banyan Systems of Westborough, Mass., Burnette said.


The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan, has gone from 18 Banyan servers to six
running NT to support 1,500 users, Cooper said.  


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