Report suggests GILS, X.500 link

Agency users will find it a lot easier to track down government information if the recommendations are followed from a recent study that suggested connecting two major data systems.

The General Services Administration's Center for Electronic Messaging Technologies (CEMT) feasibility study to be released in final form this month encourages the interoperability of the Government Information Locator Service (GILS) and the governmentwide X.500 electronic directory.

The study focuses on the "green pages " information stored in X.500 directories that gives bibliographic retrieval information on government documents and publications.

"We wanted to make sure that the GILS project has a directory service available to it within the X.500 framework " said Jack Finley CEMT's program manager. "GILS is doing something similar to the green pages and we want to make sure that what we do is coordinated with them. We want to ensure that we don't have stovepipe systems."

"One of the product lines we expect out of [CEMT] is a series of pages including the green pages " said Ron Piasecki GSA's deputy commissioner for current and emerging technology implementation.

GILS which all federal agencies are mandated to be a part of is a type of electronic card catalog that helps users locate government documents through distributed keyword searches. An X.500 directory provides users with information on government employees agencies and services.

CEMT has recently encouraged every agency to develop its own X.500 electronic directory which in turn would become part of the larger government directory that is intended to be the central locator for information on employees and documents in the government.

The study done by Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. concludes that information in GILS and the governmentwide X.500 directory will be complementary and that the two systems can interoperate.

In order to integrate the X.500 protocol and Z39.50 protocol used by GILS the study suggests creating a "multipurpose client interface" that would support X.500 authentication and directory access in order to locate users or services as well as GILS record locator services to retrieve government records. Through this interface a user would be able to look up information in the X.500 governmentwide directory about a person including a list of documents published by that person a telephone number and an address. By clicking on a document title the client interface would use the title string to initiate a search for the document abstract on GILS.

Similarly a document abstract retrieved via GILS would provide access to X.500 information on the author.

Yet only a Z39.50 to X.500 gateway prototype exists and there is none for information going in the opposite direction. The CEMT study was optimistic though that this could be achieved.

Finley said he is working with Eliot Christian chief of the data and information management staff at the U.S. Geological Survey and a leader in the GILS directive to develop a project to put together Z39.50 and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol to increase the use of GILS through X.500.

However it appears early in the game for many agencies to start thinking about the interoperability of GILS and X.500.

"It might be something that is interesting later on but not many people are that enamored with X.500 " said Ron Hack director of the Office of Systems and Telecommunications Management at the Commerce Department. "There are other ways to fry the fish. X.500 is just one capability."

With respect to GILS Hack added that he is "not sure that agencies are all that interested in GILS. The motivation for GILS is the executive order."

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