GCN INSIDER: Trends and technologies that affect the way government does IT

Look out, the SAN is coming

Yes, we nod, we understand the potential need for mobile storage area networks, such as the one Xiotech Corp. of Eden Prairie, Minn., introduced today. A mobile SAN such as the new Magnitude 3D 1000m, company officials told GCN last month, could be invaluable in continuity-of-operations planning. It is a self-contained, all-in-one version of Xiotech’s Magnitude 3D family of SANs, that can be deployed and redeployed on a moment’s notice. It includes all the storage (up to 67 terabytes), networking, Ethernet and gateway features that a regular SAN has—except it’s on wheels in a roughly 2.5-by-2-by-3-foot (HWD) case.

Then Mike Stolz, Xiotech’s vice president of marketing, hit on another, page-one-news-type example of the Magnitude 3D 1000m in action. Imagine the possibilities for a mobile SAN in the field of computer forensics. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators, for instance, could swoop down on a corrupt, Enron-style corporation, plug in the mobile SAN, and rapidly copy e-mail and data evidence to take back to headquarters for analysis.

Longhorn meets accessibility

With the launch of its Longhorn op- erating system next year, Micro-soft Corp. will roll out its new Windows User Interface Automation model. In explaining the technology to GCN, Rob Sinclair, director of Microsoft’s Accessible Technology Group, nearly lost us. The old Active Accessibility model, he said, “wasn’t rich enough” and was “too complicated.” The new model “will provide richer information” about an application to help make it more accessible.

But Sinclair also hit on some examples that lit our light bulb. “Say you’re using a screen reader for e-mail,” he said. “Today it’s hard for the reader to determine if, for example, a message has been read or if it’s high priority. A reader [designed] with UI Automation will be able to tell you that you have 70 unread messages, 15 with attachments and you’re on the sixth message.”

In short, software programs have become more complex and accessible technologies have struggled to keep up. Think about all the dialog boxes, collapsible windows and other elements that you may take for granted. Developers—whether inside or outside your agency—often have to write custom code to make those types of features accessible. Sinclair said UI Auto- mation will change that and help lower the cost of creating 508-compliant products.

Perhaps best of all, Microsoft plans to share its technology with OS competitors, including Apple and Linux vendors.

Port security

Controlling the comings and goings of USB key drives, iPods and other portable media is a challenge that a variety of technology companies are attempting to address. Recently the Energy Department asked one of its IT providers to help do something about the problem.

Ardence Inc. of Waltham, Mass., already provides a thin-client computing environment to Energy’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The facility has hundreds of diskless client devices and several Ardence servers for streaming data and applications to end-users. But these days, any system with a port can accommodate a mobile, multigigabyte storage system.

Enter Ardence Port Blocker. The Port Blocker does what its name implies, allowing users of Ar- dence’s client and server products to effectively disable COM and LPT ports, removable media drives, flash memory devices, USB drives, etc. The company has immediately included the feature as part of its Ardence 3.3 Desktop, Server and Secure streaming products. Yes, that means to get this type of security from Ardence it’s a commitment: First an agency would have to choose Ardence for powering a thin-client environment—not necessarily a no-brainer with other products, most notably Citrix MetaFrame, on the market.

Still, from what company officials have shared with GCN, the new Port Blocker is a powerful tool. Network administrators manage ports centrally on a group or individual basis. They can even stop a user from attaching a printer to a system while still allowing network printing.

About the Author

Connect with the GCN staff on Twitter @GCNtech.


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