GSA prints final guide for X.500 directory

The General Services Administration's Center for Electronic Messaging Technologies (CEMT) has released final guidance for federal state and local agencies on what they need to do to create an X.500 government electronic directory that would provide access to each agency's key personnel and documents.

The strategic planning guidance lists goals objectives and functional requirements for participating in the government electronic directory program. A separate document provides a detailed technical design of the government directory.

The directory is central to agencies' plans for developing widespread electronic services.

Once it is established "you will be able to locate anyone within the federal government " said Jack Finley the program manager at CEMT. "It will also be the infrastructure for electronic commerce architectures. We're moving toward business-quality e-mail that will allow us to do that. X.500 is a step in the right direction because it gives us a common structure."

Building a government directory is a "multiyear process " Finley said. But he expects that by next April "Blue Pages" with specific information on a government agency will be available in the government directory.

"The true ability to intercommunicate is knowing [e-mail] addresses " said Ron Hack director of the Office of Systems and Telecommunications Management at the Commerce Department. "If I don't know your Internet address I can't find you. X.500 capabilities promise a seamless way" to do this.

Finley said that despite the lack of an electronic messaging policy from the Office of Management and Budget this guidance provides enough clout to encourage agencies to start developing their directories. "We've had broad acceptance of our e-mail strategy " he said.

OMB was expected to issue a bulletin or policy on governmentwide electronic messaging but reportedly will not do so now.

CEMT encourages each agency to create its own X.500 directory that will in turn become part of the larger government directory that is intended to be the central locator for information on employees and documents in the government.

One agency that is working on building a directory is the Transportation Department.

"We've worked with the GSA on our schema and have all the requirements it has for levels of connectivity " said George Ramick Jr. the DOT messaging manager. "From my viewpoint X.500 allows us to have a standards-based directory synchronization product that can be enlarged beyond messaging."

DOT is also working on integrating its directory with the Defense Message System a secure electronic messaging system that agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard must interact with. DMS is also based on X.500 directory services.

"I think the most important thing about DMS is that it is driving a large number of users into the X.500 environment " said Warren Suss president of Warren H. Suss Associates. "On the civilian side there are lots of agencies that will need to communicate across boundaries. X.500 provides a good structure to find out where someone else is."

One big challenge for agencies is the lack of X.500 commercial off-the-shelf products. "The technology is there [to implement X.500 directories] but addressing is not there yet " Commerce's Hack said.

He agreed that the CEMT guidance is "enough to get agencies who are moving already to X.500 to share the same vision. At least it gives you something to focus on." However Hack added "I still think OMB guidance is needed to get us the last 20 yards.".


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