Feds show interest but aren't quite ready to take the plunge

Feds show interest but aren't quite ready to take the plunge

NASA systems chief Lee Holcomb says the agency later this year will consider adding Win 2000 to its standard products list.

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

Federal agencies are taking a wait-and-see stance on whether to upgrade to Microsoft Windows 2000.

'I'd call it technical conservatism,' said Dave Sossamon, a member of the Postal Service's Point of Service One team. POS One uses a Windows NT environment to collect purchasing data from post offices around the nation.

The Postal Service's installed NT base for POS One includes numerous IBM 4694 retail terminals and a Retail Data Mart hosted on a pair of Compaq Computer Corp. servers.

The team has no plans to migrate the hardware to Win 2000 this year because POS One is 100 percent remotely maintained, Sossamon said. Local post offices have no system administrators.

'It's imperative to achieve and maintain a stable network environment,' he said.

USPS analysts must test for interoperability before making any changes to the infrastructure. A group is beta-testing Win 2000 for possible use next year, Sossamon said.

H. Ray Dennis, an assistant division chief in the Census Bureau's Economic Statistical Methods and Programming Division, said his organization has done 'a little bit of experimenting' with Win 2000 but has no plans for an upgrade.

'We're just doing OK with NT, and I think everybody's so busy right now we haven't had a lot of time to research,' Dennis said.

NASA chief information officer Lee Holcomb said the space agency has a Windows working group charged with communicating NASA's wide-ranging technical needs to Microsoft Corp.

'I think it's been a good collaboration,' Holcomb said.

Every six months NASA revises its desktop standard for client hardware and software.

'We tend to wait until a product is out and fully evaluated' before considering it for agencywide use, Holcomb said. NASA officials will review Win 2000 for the next revision of the standard later this year, he said.

Jean E. Carter, CIO at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and head of the working group, said that a number of users have been beta-testing Win 2000 components for a year and a half but that the center has no migration plans.

Many 9x, NT users

About 70 percent of the space agency's desktop computers run Windows 9x, and about two-thirds of them authenticate through NT domains, said Bill Naiman, chief of the Workgroup Computing Office at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

NASA's beta test program has 30 to 40 servers and 100 to 200 clients running Win 2000, said Ruth Novak, a senior consultant with NASA's Expert Center for Basic Interoperability and a working group participant.

Dennis DeWalt, deputy CIO at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said it is unlikely the National Emergency Management Information System will move to the new operating system anytime soon.

DeWalt said one of his senior engineers believes Win 2000 has some good features that NEMIS can use eventually but not immediately.

'We believe it is prudent to see how any new software release goes, and we would not want to go first with a system as critical as NEMIS. We will observe for a while,' DeWalt said.

Ralph Colavita, chief of strategic acquisitions systems at the Defense Supply Center'Philadelphia, said his branch of the Defense Logistics Agency uses Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 5.

The reason, Colavita said, is that it was only late last year that his group finished installing NT on the desktop computers of 3,000 employees. 'Just to keep the stability of what we have will be our main goal for a while,' he said.


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