Public Service Commission gets its contacts in order

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Public Service Commission of Canada is in the process of moving its database of every federal government employee’s contact information to a common platform using Novell

tools.

Headquartered in Ottawa, the PSC is an independent government agency responsible for administering the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and a merit-based system which oversees the appointment of all federal employees. The organization has populated its Novell eDirectory with 250,000 government employees and is using Web application eGuide to search for their names, addresses, fax numbers and e-mail addresses.

The internal security standard for the Canadian government is called X400, said the PSC’s manager of the corporate server group Normand Bouvier. “”Before moving over to a central repository in eDirectory, if you wanted to do a look-up for an X400 (e-mail) address, you had to write your own little application,” he said. Novell tools have taken some of the legwork out of the equation.

By December, eGuide will become the PSG’s official phone book, replacing the need for its old PSC phone directory and the existing X400 directory.

The implementation is part of a larger Novell upgrade for the PSC. By using NetWare 6 Cluster Services, the agency has, to date, consolidated its server environment from 28 to five. “So far it’s been very successful,” said Bouvier. “We’ve have one hit — it was a configuration issue — but we worked it out with Novell’s worldwide support (services).”

The agency is already considering a move to NetWare 6.5, which will be released later this summer. The decision hasn’t been set in stone yet, but “at the PSC, we always keep ourselves up to date,” said Bouvier. “A new product comes out, we test it, we put it in our lab . . . we go for it. It’s a religion in our place.” The agency is also looking at an upgrade for its HPUX platform and is moving from Windows 98 on its desktops to Windows XP. The upgrade will be achieved using Novell’s XENWorks product.

The PSC has been a Novell shop since NetWare 2.12. Novell said Monday at its BrainShare conference that it plans to make NetWare services available on a Linux kernel with a version 7 release. That’s still almost two years away, but Bouvier doesn’t see the PSC following that migration path. “As long as it works, you stick with it,” he said. “There’s no reason to move to another platform — we’re satisfied with what we have.” The retraining issues alone are reason enough to stay with a NetWare kernel for the foreseeable future, he added.

Another government body, Hillsborough County in Florida, is more willing to accept the possibility of NetWare services running on Linux. One of the main reasons behind that line of thinking is, “We use everything — whatever the best is,” said the county’s chief technology officer, Bill Kannberg. “We use NetWare, Solaris, Windows and Linux already.”

NetWare on Linux “gives us the option to move and that makes our Linux guys really, really happy,” he said. “It’s really about total cost of ownership. Linux is another item on the menu for me.”

Hillsborough, the fifth largest county in Florida with 5,000 employees, is currently using Novell’s exteNd to plug legacy applications into its Web portal. “exteNd brought a piece of the puzzle to the portal that was missing. We don’t have people to sit there and write code for the portal,” he said — by using exteNd, his IT staff are able to build applications in a matter of hours.

Bouvier’s PSC team deployed Novell technology almost entirely on their own and have since become a model for Novell to show other government agencies how to best deploy their software. Kannberg called in Novell’s support services to help him deploy software largely to avoid time constraints, but it wasn’t an ideal engagement — at least to begin with.

“The initial experience was horrible,” he said. “I honestly believe that Novell wasted taxpayer money.”

He first began using Novell’s consulting services shortly after Novell bought out Cambridge Technology Partners in 2001. Integration issues between the two companies spilled over to Hillsborough County. “The problem was that the right people were not on the job,” he said. “Right after the CTP acquisition they didn’t know the (Novell) products.”

Kannberg said he called in Novell’s vice-chairman and second-in-command Chris Stone to intervene. As a result, Novell provided the county with a compensation package, according to Kannberg, and located the right consultants for the job. In the end, he said, “they handled it the right way.”

BrainShare continues until Friday.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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