The iSeries Plays Key Role in Homeland Security Pilot Project
by Alex Woodie
Criminals, terrorists, and assorted ne'er-do-wells, take note: if you want to break the law in southern Mississippi, the county of Hancock, Harrison, or Jackson is probably not the best place to do it. Last week the government unveiled a new iSeries- and xSeries-based system that allows public safety personnel in those areas to share information much more easily than before. Paid for by the Department of Homeland Security, the system is being heralded as a model for public safety information systems in post-Sept.-11 America.
At a press conference last week in Long Beach, Mississippi, Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) unveiled the new Automated System Project, which was developed with $14 million in federal grant money by the three counties and the University of Southern Mississippi. The initial deployment will tie together three sheriffs departments, 10 police departments, 15 fire departments, and two emergency medical response providers in the area, and the hope is to expand the system throughout the state as well as to other states.
The project is being rolled out in three phases. The first phase was completed in February and provides a single point of access to the Java-based jail management systems of three county jails. The second phase, which was completed in June, allows integrated records management and computer-aided dispatch for fire and law enforcement personnel. In October 2004, the third phase will begin, which entails connecting laptops in all police, fire, and emergency medical response vehicles to data housed on an OS/400 server. When the third phase is complete, all public safety personnel will have access to every type of public safety information record available, including arrest warrants, criminal intelligence, mug shots, hazardous materials data, missing persons information, and medical emergency protocols. For now, the project involves sharing data the counties already had access to; it doesn't provide access to other federal databases.
Some of the goals of the Automated System Project include improving the response time of public safety personnel, improving homeland security, and furthering the investigations for the search for missing children. "It is critical that all of our first responders have instant access to the critical information that can save lives, speed arrests, and ensure public safety," says Major Julian Allen, Ph.D., director of the project.
Two identical data centers have been set up 60 miles apart to provide system redundancy. Each data center includes an iSeries Model 825, which houses the public safety applications, and two xSeries Model 445s, connected to the iSeries via Integrated xSeries Adapters. The xSeries servers, running Novell's SuSE Linux, broker access to the iSeries data through virtual private networks (VPNs) set up with Tarantella's Secure Global Desktop Enterprise Edition remote access software, which installs on the xSeries and on notebooks and clients. Lakeview Technology's MIMIX high availability software provides data replication and failover control between the two iSeries, says Jay Bretzman, IBM's director of eServer xSeries. "This is one application you never want to have fail," he says.
The ASP is designed to be a pilot project, "not only for rest of the state of Mississippi, but the hopes and dreams are for the rest of the states as well," Bretzman says. The iSeries' low cost and ease of use should resonate with government entities, which often have relatively modest IT budgets and lack people with the latest, greatest skills. "September 11 created an opportunity to fund this type of project, and once we see the IT savings, it will probably be the model for future state government installations," he says.
This isn't the first time the iSeries has played a critical roll in homeland security, and it will undoubtedly not be the last. During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, replicated AS/400s were used to house a repository of local, state, and federal data on criminals known to inhabit the greater Utah area (see "High Availability a High Priority at Olympics Games").
Until the final results are in and the Department of Homeland Security decides how best to spend our money to protect the nation's citizens, the Automated System Project will concentrate on keeping the three coastal counties in southern Mississippi in the same loop. "We absolutely expect this will be a successful implementation," Bretzman says. "Bad guys like to hide out in small towns where people don't have access to modern technology. This is just a quantum leap in capability."