Corps uses direct approach in pay system redesign

Corps uses direct approach in pay system redesign

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

Marine Corps employees are jumping through fewer technological hoops these days to access personnel and payroll information.

Maj. Tim Corley, head of network infrastructure for the Marines' Manpower and Reserve Affairs office at Quantico, Va., said Attachmate Corp.'s e-Vantage Host Access Server improves access by cutting the number of steps and the amount of old equipment between host and client.

Attachmate of Bellevue, Wash., recently released a commercial Host Access Server 2.2 after refining an earlier version based on comments from Marines who started using it last year.

The Attachmate suite has increased payroll system uptime and reduced costs 'by getting rid of a lot of unnecessary but traditional components' for legacy access, Corley said.

The Marine Corps' and the Marine Forces Reserve's integrated personnel and payroll system, known as the Total Force System, resides on a mainframe in St. Louis.

About 1,000 users in 60 Marine offices across the country had been using terminal emulators to access the human resources data on the mainframe. Their Total Force client connections had to pass through a Web server, an IBM Systems Network Architecture server, an 1174 controller and an IDNX broadband networking system from Network Equipment Technologies Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., before reaching the Defense Department's Non-Classified IP Router Network and the St. Louis host.

The old path 'had five points of failure' between each client and NIPRnet, Corley said. Whenever any of the devices went down, clients would be kicked offline. Many users assumed that the mainframe was down when in fact some other piece of equipment had failed, Corley said.

To access Total Force, Marines now need only the Java-based terminal emulation software provided by Attachmate. Corps users on NIPRnet can get the viewer software by going to a nonpublic Web site, at www.butler.manpower.usmc.mil, and hitting the Download Attachmate button.

Host Access Server runs on a 200-MHz Dell Computer Corp. system under Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, Corley said.

After downloading the viewer application, users click on a desktop icon to access the mainframe through any standard browser. As Total Force receives upgrades over time, Marines will download new client releases the same way, Corley said.

Through the Attachmate viewer, each client connects directly to the local router that goes to NIPRnet. 'We've basically reduced the total points of failure from five to one,' he said.

Operating expense also has declined because Manpower and Reserve Affairs no longer needs to maintain so much legacy equipment, Corley said, although he did not have specific figures.

A no-brainer

Far more important to Total Force users, however, is the increased reliability of mainframe access. Training workers to use the new terminal emulator is easy because it is browser-based, or 'what we call a no-brainer,' Corley said.

After Manpower and Reserve Affairs deployed an earlier version of the suite last year, Attachmate added to Version 2.2 features that the Marines wanted, he said.

The commercial price for Host Access Server 2.2 is $214 per server, according to Attachmate officials. Viewers for Web terminal emulation of mainframes have commercial prices ranging from $189 to $425 per workstation license. Enhanced security services, desktop management functions and other options cost extra.

'But you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to increase productivity and make your users happy,' Corley said.

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