Web opens USGS' mainframe-bound reports

The U.S. Geological Survey is offering scientists around the world access to USGS' mainframe-stored reports thanks to a Web-enabling tool.

Using BMC Software Inc.'s Control-D/WebAccess Server solution, USGS has replaced dial-in access with a central, secure Web site that offers improved searching and annotation capabilities. Scientists can log on to the site with a user ID and password.

"We're finding that more and more people are seeing the Internet as a safe medium for sending a lot of data," said Colin Brunton, senior product director for output management solutions for BMC.

A major obstacle to providing mainframe data to a Web site is the drain that it puts on an organization's network, Brunton said. To avoid that, BMC uses a protocol called page-on-demand, which allows a defined number of pages to be viewed at a time.

People reading reports usually view only one or two pages at a time, Brunton said, so there's no need to send much more than that. "We could waste a lot of network traffic by throwing the whole report at them," he said.

A key feature of Control-D/WebAccess Server is its annotation capabilities, Brunton said. A scientist reading a USGS report can now mark sections of interest to return to later or share with colleagues. Users can also add notes and read others' remarks.

"You can have this whole dialogue about a specific field in a report," Brunton said. "That makes [for] a very good conversation." The annotation capability also bypasses time-zone differences that scientists from different parts of the world would face during live conversation, he said.

USGS and BMC began working on the project in September 1999. USGS officials were unavailable for comment.

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