Naval Sea Systems Command
- By Pamela Houghtaling
- Nov 10, 1996
Project Objective: Navsea headquarters sought an intranet to enhance communications flow while Newport focused on database access.
Status: Both projects are works in progress with enhancements continually being made.
Investment: Use of existing network infrastructure and commercial off-the-shelf software has kept the price of development low.
Contractors: The Navy used internal personnel to develop the intranet and maintain information./TD/TABLE /TD/TABLE T hese issues are especially critical for large organizations with varied information needs. Two intranets currently operating within the Naval Sea Systems Command offer a study in contrasts between a closed system at Navsea headquarters and a more open one at a field location the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport Newport R.I.
Aimed at increasing the flow of communications the headquarters intranet serves both general and management information purposes. The development of the intranet presented challenges in terms of the control and dissemination of information especially when the information is sensitive explained Russ Ruppert Navsea's computer systems analyst for overall command architecture.
Ruppert said the security issue at headquarters was solved by having an authenticated user ID and password system with two levels of access. A user can access the intranet home page based on his IP (Internet Protocol) address. But in order to see business-sensitive information a user must log on to the Web server through a user ID and password which identifies the user's access rights.
Because the intranet is currently reserved for headquarters use systems for the estimated 4 500 users must reside on the backbone network.
The intranet was built using existing equipment and staff resources. Its development started about eight months ago as a shared file system accessible through Microsoft Corp.'s Windows File Manager. Navsea's Command Metrics Working Group which collects performance data on programs throughout Navsea wanted to use a Novell Inc. file server to collaborate on creating Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. More recently Novell Web server software was added to the same file server box to enable the working group to present the information in a graphical format to Vice Adm. George R. Sterner Navsea's commander. The intranet is currently based on a Novell server running NetWare 4.1 with Novell directory services.
Emphasizing the simplicity in the system design Matt Roland the architect for network systems at Navsea's headquarters said the intranet is built around tools already familiar to the headquarters staff. Content is created using PowerPoint and Web browsers at the desktop are configured to launch the PowerPoint viewer.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is used as the graphical user interface for the PowerPoint slides. "You create the information once in PowerPoint and it's done " said John Rivers who heads information systems program management for all of Navsea. "You don't have to redo it all in HTML " which saves time and money he said.
Information is placed on the intranet through end-drive mapping to the Novell server. Individuals who originally had end-drive mapping to the file server can now publish their own information by putting their information out on the file system. The whole idea was to push publishing down from the Web administrator to the editor of the content Roland said. Users create content with standard templates and save it in a specified location on their end drive which then becomes published on the Web through pre-established Web links.
Newport IntranetThe NUWC Division Newport's intranet provides typical divisionwide information such as phone directories and links to project-related information that a group wants to share with others in the division said Mary H. Lee head of Newport's Computer and Information Service Department. The intranet serving this research and development organization of 3 500 employees is an unclassified IP-protected network.
The applications initially chosen for the intranet permit databases to be read from the desktop explained Eric Simmons head of the Management and Information Systems Division at Newport. "The intranet provides a window into the data - another way of viewing information without the user leaving his desk " Simmons said.
"We have a lot of rich informational databases here which are functionally driven " Lee said. "The Web technology enables access to information that the user normally would have had to make a phone call to get."We didn't want just text and graphics " Simmons added. "We wanted the killer application - what people really want access to."
Newport's phone directory database was chosen as an initial resource to be offered through the intranet. The phone directory has turned out to be incredibly popular Simmons noted. The intranet also provides access to travel order and plant inventory databases with other databases to follow.
Security is not as big an issue for Newport as it is for Navsea headquarters. Access to the Newport intranet is allowed through an IP address. Certain new features such as employee access to their own personnel information will be protected through a user ID and password system. In another measure to restrict access to confidential information smaller intranets designed for specific projects will be maintained on separate servers with no links from the division intranet.
The Newport intranet went live May 29 after four months of initial development.
The intranet now runs on a high-end Digital Equipment Corp. VAX server where the databases reside. Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator 2.0 and Adobe Systems Inc.'s Acrobat Reader served as the building blocks although Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers can also be used.
A Newport intranet steering group consisting of 20 representatives from the organization's business resource functions and technical departments continues to guide development. "We're very tightly coupled with our end users " Lee said.
IHoughtaling is a consultant and writer based in Northern Virginia.