Army knowledge portal needs backup

The Army Knowledge Online (AKO) portal has more than 955,000 accounts and is adding about 2,500 daily, but it lacks the funding for a "mirror" site to keep the portal online if the primary server fails, according to the service's chief technology officer.

"It's a funding issue plain and simple," said Col. Robert Coxe, the Army CTO, during his April 23 presentation at the Army Small Computer Program's information technology conference in Reno, Nev. "A single point of failure is not acceptable."

The AKO portal, which offers Army news, distance-learning opportunities, lifetime e-mail accounts, a search engine and a chat room, is supposed to be used for most of the service's internal business by July.

It will cost more than $100 million to establish a redundant mirror site, and that's largely due to storage and infrastructure costs, Coxe told Federal Computer Week, adding that an implementation plan to establish the backup site at an undisclosed, secure location is ready to go as soon as the dollars are available.

The Army's chief information officer, Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, is in talks with the service's budget office about diverting some fourth-quarter fiscal 2002 funding for this initiative, but that would be possible only if a congressional supplement is passed to aid the ongoing war on terrorism, Coxe said. "You can't not fund the war, and you can't not do this."

The portal's popularity shows no signs of slackening. The Enterprise Collaboration Center, which enables users to share documents, conduct online chats and similar activities, launched earlier this month without any public relations effort and still drew about 25,000 users in the first week, Coxe said.

"The richness of this portal is not about e-mail," he said. "The richness of this portal is your applications" and being able to get to them in about two clicks of a mouse. "We want to get you the information as soon as we can."

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More guidance coming

Meanwhile, the Army secretary and chief of staff are expected to soon sign off on the service's second knowledge management guidance memorandum, which will detail new goals for the servicewide initiative, including reductions in the number of servers and applications in use.

Speaking April 23 at the conference in Reno, Miriam Browning, the Army's principal director for enterprise integration, said she hoped the memo would come out in the next 14 days.

Browning presented a draft version of the guidelines, which include:

* Reducing the number of servers by 30 percent by the end of fiscal 2003.

* Reducing the number of applications by 50 percent by fiscal 2004.

* Developing a reporting process by July 1 using baseline assessments to track the progress toward those application reductions.

If the memo is not formally released soon, the Army will be forced to re- evaluate the deadlines, she said.

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