Macs marching into U.S. Army

The U.S. Army's recent switch to a Mac OS server instead of Windows NT for its public Web site may be just the beginning of a major shakeup in the Army's platform strategy.

The U.S. Army's recent switch to a Mac OS server instead of Windows NT for its public Web site may be just the beginning of a major shakeup in the Army's platform strategy.

The Army, which has set up a Power Mac G3 running StarNine Technologies' WebSTAR Server Suite 4.0 in a locked vault in the Pentagon, is considering using more Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), products, Army Webmaster Stephen Bates told MacWEEK.

Bates said the switch to WebSTAR is going "remarkably well."

Sources said the choice of WebSTAR on the Mac OS originated with the lower ranks instead of the top levels of the Army and generated flak from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), which complained bitterly about the Army's highly publicized move. Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeff Phillips emphasized that the platform switch "is an exploratory move by one group and does not signal a policy change."

Apple spokeswoman Vanessa Rios said the choice of the Mac OS for the Army's Web site "is not a surprise, given [the OS'] reputation for security and its popularity with design and publishing professionals."

Bates said his group is evaluating new Apple software, such as upgrades. "We are considering using OS X Streaming Server and QuickTime streaming," Bates said. "The Army Band and other organizations have expressed interest in streaming audio content."

The Army has "a mix of Mac, Windows and Unix machines," Bates said. "We certainly would like to see QuickTime ported to more platforms."

Bates said Army CIO Lt. Gen. William Campbell has directed the Web team to share lessons it has learned "with our sister services, such as the Navy and Air Force as well as the rest of the Army."

His team may give a presentation on the use of WebSTAR running on Mac OS at the fourth Army Directors of Information Management Conference in March 2000, Bates said. The annual conference brings together information-technology workers from different federal agencies as well as commercial companies to compare notes on implementation, installations and techniques.


Watch our report on the Army switching to Apple

The Army decided to use WebSTAR and Mac OS after its Web site was hacked in late June. Working with the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Command, the FBI late last month arrested 19-year-old Chad Davis of Green Bay, Wisc., for the attack on the Army Web site. The Army cited security concerns raised by the incident as the impetus for its switch to the Mac.

To determine its platform strategy, the Army reviewed the security analysis provided on the MIT-based World Wide Web Consortium site and evaluated security issues for its own Web site.

In addition, the Army's Computer Emergency Response Team tested a variety of software packages, according to WebSTAR Product Manager Eric Zelenka, who said he began working with Army personnel in June, assisted by the federal group in Apple's sales force.

Army swayed by security features
Zelenka said the Army was swayed by security features in WebSTAR Server Suite 4.0, such as Secure Sockets Layer Level 2 and Level 3 encryption for increased security, a proxy server for network security and access control, and integrated FTP and e-mail servers.

With Windows NT, "system administrators can't know what is going on when there is a problem and have to keep up with all the security patches from Microsoft, which can create more problems," Zelenka said. With WebSTAR, "we could create a feature to watch for problems and alert a system administrator that action is needed, so people don't have to monitor the server all the time."

In the wake of the Army's switch from Windows NT to the Mac OS for its Web site, other U.S. military branches may decide to use Apple technology more widely.

Navy has NT problems
According to one online report, the U.S. Navy has had some problems using Windows NT.

The Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., is using WebSTAR, StarNine said. The Center handles the Navy's research, development, testing and engineering for submarines and other systems associated with undersea warfare, among other tasks.

Meanwhile, other federal sites have picked up on Apple technology. StarNine said WebSTAR is in use at the U.S. State Department's main Web site; the U.S. Peace Corps; the National Institutes of Health; the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.; and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Other government agencies using WebSTAR and the Mac OS for intranets or other Web sites include the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, as well as several divisions in the Department of the Interior, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the U.S. Geological Survey; and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, StarNine said.