Senate elects new Legislative Information System

Senate elects new Legislative Information System

The Senate Office of the Secretary's data management, capture and information retrieval system replaces a 1970s-era mainframe system that was not year 2000-ready.

Lawmakers will gain quick access to congressional documents through client-server environment

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The Senate next month will deploy two modules of what will utlimately make up its new Legislative Information System.

LIS will replace the Legis legacy mainframe system that dates to the 1970s.

The Senate Office of the Secretary's year 2000 concerns led to the creation of LIS, but its value also lies in the extensive documentation produced during its development and implementation stages, officials said.

'The Legis system is not year 2000-compliant, so you had two choices,' said Dolores Moorehead, Senate director of legislative information systems. 'Do you modify the legacy system, for which you do not have documentation, or just go ahead and bite the bullet by developing a new system where you can control documentation?'

Moorehead's office bit the bullet.

Congress mandated the system to provide access to Senate legislation and supporting documentation.

The project began in 1997, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, when Moorehead's office concentrated on analyzing and reviewing systems' requirements, she said.

The system's primary functions will be managing and capturing data, and information retrieval, she said. The system will pick up data from executive agencies, Senate clerks, the House of Representatives, the Government Printing Office and parliamentarians.

The Library of Congress began work on the search and retrieval component, the Amendment Tracking System, in 1997. And in August of last year, the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms and KPMG Peat Marwick of New York began building the second component, the Document Management System.

The two components will get an interface by the end of the year, Moorehead said. The two offices are working with the Legislative Standard Generalized Markup Language Coordinating Committee and the Legislative SGML Technical Committee to ensure the system is compatible with House information systems.

The system will run in a client-server environment. It will include two Sun Microsystem Enterprise 3500 servers: one as the primary Documentum EDMS server and the other as the primary Oracle7 Release 7.34 database server. Documentum EDMS, from Documentum Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., is a document management system.

Just in case

Each server will also host a backup version of the other's primary application so LIS will continue to operate in case either server fails. Each server will have two SCSI connections to a 270G Sun StorEdge 3500 for archival storage.

Sun's Cluster 2.1 Software for Sun Enterprise 3500 will also increase system availability and fault tolerance, Moorehead said. The cluster will be used to automatically initiate backup versions of the applications in case of a failure of the primary versions. An Ethernet cable will connect the servers to provide continuous synchronization of the clustering software.

Moorehead said she stressed the need for strong configuration control of the documents, and a clear list of requirements for the functional design for users, testers and developers.

Development requires code inspections to document and correct discrepancies. After implementation, there will be regular reviews of the system.

'Every one of those [steps] is a checkpoint for making sure you are going where you want to go, and associated with it you have the documentation about what you did and where you are in the process,' Moorehead said.

LIS will provide technical documentation, allowing software engineers to keep track of whatever tweaking has been done to the initial design. It will also provide information for future maintenance.

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