TCS to rely on `manager of managers'

With its new Treasury Communications System (TCS) the Treasury Department is for the first time completely automating the management of its 100 000-user network becoming part of a government and industry trend.

By adopting a so-called "manager of managers" for the $425 million network Treasury can integrate information generated by multiple network nodes about the status of their operations. With real-time access to all this information it will be easier for technicians to identify the source of service interruptions and repair them quickly Treasury officials and vendors said.

"It lets us get the information focused more quickly and improve restoration time " said Charles Dubay Treasury's assistant director of telecommunications. "Everybody is moving in this direction."

Automated network management software is the first of many new technologies that Treasury expects to deploy during the 10-year contract. Over the next year prime contractor TRW Inc. will upgrade network routers begin to install an Asynchronous Transfer Mode backbone and attain a higher security rating for the system while Treasury users are developing plans to adopt new network-based desktop applications.

TRW and network operations subcontractor BBN Corp. are using NetExpert which is network management software from Objective Systems Integrators (OSI) to monitor network operations. Among its features the software provides maintenance managers with a networkwide view of current hardware malfunctions ranked according to how critical those problems are.

Linda Mills the TCS program manager with TRW said the company has also placed the site drawings for the network on-line. The system "will tell us the piece of equipment even the board that has the trouble" so that technicians "can go right to the trouble " she said. "That's very important because we have 4 500 sites we're monitoring."

Devon Gordon the sales support manager with OSI said agencies and companies have started automating their network management tasks to make their operations more efficient. "As with other people [Treasury has] had the same mandates come down to be more cost-effective " he said.

"Agencies that are doing their own data networks will use this kind of approach " said Warren Suss a Jenkintown Pa. telecommunications analyst. "It's hard for me to think of a data network I've seen in the last five years that doesn't have a network management environment on it."

Suss said NetExpert is "a widely used network management tool." OSI counts several federal agencies among its customers. NetExpert is also used by the Coast Guard the White House Communications Agency the Federal Aviation Administration and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The software designates network elements as objects and allows users to define rules for how those objects are managed. Raymond Marra who manages government business for OSI said users can "create rules on the fly" to accommodate changes in the network configuration.

Because network management information is being stored in a single integrated database Treasury customers will be able to monitor the status of their service requests electronically. "The trouble tickets are on-line " Mills said "so you can see where we are solving problems."

In addition TRW plans to accept service orders and bill customers electronically. Meanwhile the data collected by the system will be used by Treasury to grade TRW's performance. The TCS pact is an "award fee" contract which rewards vendors based on the quality of their work.

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