Forest Service adopts messaging architecture

Forest Service adopts messaging architecture

The change will make data more accessible, Agriculture's Anne F. Thomson Reed says.

Lotus Notes and Domino serve as portals to Web and legacy systems data

By Chris Driscoll

GCN Staff

The Forest Service has embraced a single, nationwide Internet and intranet Web architecture, using Lotus Notes as its core messaging system and Lotus Domino as its Web server and development tool for easy access to the information stored in its legacy systems.

The service chose a product built around a messaging architecture to move information efficiently from e-mail to Web systems and to plug mobile users into its network. Domino also can serve as a common front end for accessing other Agriculture Department information systems.

Under the contract administered by Agriculture's chief information officer, the Forest Service is setting up 32,000 Lotus seats for users in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The eventual cost will run about $4.1 million, according to the agency.

'Exchanging information with all interested parties has always been difficult and time-consuming,'' Agriculture CIO Anne F. Thomson Reed said. 'Preparation and draft reviews for an environmental assessment can last for several months. Using Notes and Domino's discussion group, e-mail, calendaring and collaboration, the Forest Service information will be more accessible.''

The contract includes education, consulting and software maintenance services, and seat licenses. It was a significant sale for Lotus Development Corp., said Michael Sheehan, director of federal sales.

Talking heads

'One of the reasons the Forest Service chose us is that it wanted to communicate with the Bureau of Land Management within the Interior Department, which has also standardized on Domino,'' Sheehan said. The BLM buy had been a $1 million-plus contract for Lotus.

BLM provides similar public services and has corporate-government partnerships like those of the Forest Service, so the two agencies communicate frequently, Reed said.

Lotus' consulting services will help the Forest Service migrate from Hewlett-Packard OpenMail, its current messaging server software, and client e-mail software from Applix Inc. of Westborough, Mass.'The education services include training in Domino use and administration.

The Forest Service had a long list of criteria when it bought the new messaging and information management products.'To start with, the agency wanted an open environment with industry standards and protocols that did not exist when its legacy Unix systems were built. The new systems had to interoperate with those of other federal, state and local agencies, as well as corporate suppliers and partners. And the new systems had to meet security requirements.

The Domino software will run on many of the 1,200 IBM RS/6000 servers at Forest Service locations around the country. They have PowerPC processors and run AIX, IBM's version of the Unix operating system. The Forest Service recently finished an 18-month installation of the servers to replace minicomputers from Data General Corp. of Westborough, Mass.

The service had to comply with several Agriculture objectives outlined in a strategic information technology plan that covers 1998 to 2002.

The plan requires all USDA agencies to conform to an enterprise network security policy and a TCP/IP architecture.

Domino can serve Internet clients such as Web browsers, Post Office Protocol 3 mail clients and news readers, but because it is based on a messaging system, it also supports other client types such as Messaging Application Programming Interface mail clients, telephones and pagers.

It can handle Rich Text Format, Hypertext Markup Language, standard image formats, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions mail, and standard audio and video formats.

The Forest Service will use Domino to build Web applications for accessing its databases via the Open Database Connectivity protocol and Structured Query Language.

Domino's directory manages resource information such as:

' User profiles and e-mail addresses

' Server and database administration and configuration

' Security certificates and access controls

' Replication of schedules and network paths.

The directory is programmable. If a Web application has to be replicated to another Web server elsewhere, such as an outsourced server or mirror site, all the Web pages, the application logic and the directory are replicated at once as an integrated set.

Domino's security features will authenticate Forest Service users and passwords, control access lists and encrypt Web sessions through the Secure Sockets Layer. The access control lists can restrict user rights down to specific fields on a page. Some users will have rights to modify or update information on an existing Web page directly from a browser.

Depending on the page or field that a user is reading, Domino assigns certain roles to the user:

' No Web access to a database or its associated views and pages, which lets the developers hide sensitive menu items or buttons

' Depositor rights to enter data in a database

' Reader rights to view pages only

' Author rights to create and post new pages and edit or delete Web pages the author created

' Editor rights to read, write, update and delete pages created by others.

Domino also can handle Web financial transactions through IBM Corp.'s MQSeries and Trade-Link middleware.

'The feature of Domino that really made the sale happen is a robust development environment,'' said Kathy Wilson, Lotus' government-industry marketing manager.

The integrated development environment will let Forest Service programmers create applications in C++, Java, JavaScript, ActiveX and LotusScript that incorporate graphical elements for interaction with existing databases.

Domino supports the Common Object Request Broker Architecture and Internet Inter-ORB Protocol for exchanging software objects. The Forest Service programmers can make their enterprise applications communicate with those of government or private organizations that follow the same standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Census Bureau also use Lotus Domino and Notes, Lotus officials said.

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