Army swapping out software for tactical messaging

Army swapping out software for tactical messaging

By Merry Mayer

Special to GCN

The Army is switching its e-mail software for tactical messaging from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange 5.5, and hoping to save time and money in the future.

The contractor that was providing Lotus Notes, Lockheed Martin Corp., asked for substantial funds to keep updating the product to work with the Army's Army Battle Command System (ABCS), said Bill Stapleton. He is a technical management division chief in the product manager office of the Defense Message System for the Standard Army Management Information Systems.

It was cheaper to switch, Stapleton said.


But how much the switch will save isn't clear. The Army still will have Microsoft Exchange integration costs. It also faces the costs associated with an additional product, Defender for Motif, from Nexor Inc. of Falls Church, Va., which supports Exchange in the Army's Unix environment.

The Army has paid Nexor and Microsoft $50,000 for a 45-day integration effort, Stapleton said. That tested the capability and fit of the product in the ABCS environment, and tested Nexor's ability to react to integration challenges, Stapleton said.

Nexor and Microsoft didn't complete the work in the 45 days allotted, but that wasn't the companies' fault, he said. 'They did a very good job,' he said.

Money not wasted


The Army is negotiating with the companies for future work, Stapleton said.

The money spent on integrating Lotus Notes with ABCS won't necessarily be down the drain when the switch is made to Exchange, he said.

'Of course some of the money and time will be negated when we switch,' Stapleton said, 'but the majority is applicable to the new product.'


There are also some benefits. Nexor's Defender for Motif already has Lightweight Directory Access Protocol capability. LDAP, an open protocol, should eventually make it possible for almost any application running on virtually any platform to get directory information such as e-mail addresses and public keys. The Army could also add a public-key infrastructure as an extra measure of security, he said.

Currently, the Army's network is kept secure using a secret network as well as encryption technology.


The Army hasn't decided whether to buy new hardware, Stapleton said. In the meantime, it will run the application on 440-MHz Sun Microsystems Ultra 10 servers with UltraSparc lli processors, 2M of cache, up to 1G of dynamic RAM and up to 9G hard drives.


The system uses TCP/IP. Users will probably access e-mail from notebook PCs or 19-inch rackmounted computers, Stapleton said. The operating system will be Microsoft Windows NT.


The ABCS system serves 8,000 users across the Army.

The Army is fielding the new e-mail software to five cores and 18 divisions, Stapleton said.

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