Treasury agency takes slow route to a new OS

Treasury agency takes slow route to a new OS

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

A different kind of year 2000 issue is hitting one Treasury Department agency as it migrates to a new network operating system.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which administers the national banking system, is in the midst of changing from a Vines network operating system from Banyan Worldwide of Westborough, Mass., to Microsoft Windows NT.

At some point, each client computer will have to be switched individually from Vines to NT, and workers will need instructions about the new OS and new e-mail applications, said Joseph Ford, a computer specialist in the Network Operations Workgroup of the office's Information Technology Services Division.

On the road again

Most of the agency's workers, however, are bank examiners who spend their time on the road, checking up on banks' year 2000 readiness. They are not around for training. Once the OS migration is finished next year, all the employees will start getting their e-mail'in all, some 20,000 messages a day'through Microsoft Exchange Server and Outlook.

'My task is to make things as seamless and comfortable as possible,' Ford said.

To the outside world, everyone will have the same e-mail address as before, Ford said, and users should notice only that the log-in prompt looks slightly different under NT and Exchange.

To ease the piecemeal transition for the traveling employees, the office has installed two software products from Incognito Software Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia: Migration Director and Intelligent SMTP Gateway.

The agency has been using iSMTP Gateway for almost five years to link with the Internet. Ford said Migration Director was chosen for its customization features and its ability to migrate individuals or small groups of users, rather than whole servers at a time.

'It's almost impossible with such a mobile organization to take care of 20 or 30 people in one swoop,' Ford said.

The agency has been using Banyan Vines for file, print and e-mail functions for the past five years, ever since it brought up its initial LAN, Ford said. The servers will now switch to StreetTalk for Windows NT, a Banyan network directory product that can handle parallel Vines and NT functions.

Finishing the migration will probably take about six more months, Ford said, as the technical staff visits each client computer to switch e-mail from Vines to Exchange.

Only about 1,000 employees are in the comptroller's Washington office. The other 2,000, mostly bank examiners, are stationed in about 70 offices across the United States and seldom are at their desks these days.

Bank on it

'The biggest hassle that we have right now is they're very busy on Y2K examination, making sure the banking system is up to par,' Ford said.

He also cited a reluctance to perform large-scale changes just prior to Jan. 1. 'You really don't want to effect very many network changes right before the clock turns over,' he said.

A test group of about 50 workers has been trying out the combination of NT, Exchange and Outlook that the rest of the agency will get eventually. 'Most of the response was quite positive,' Ford said.

He foresees changing as many as 500 seats by the end of the year. After the winter holiday season, the office will continue with the rest of the rollout in early February. In the meantime, StreetTalk for Windows NT will let users maintain contact with others in their workgroups regardless of the mail application on each client, Ford said.

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