Report: 1980s legacy systems continue to plague some US government ops

Another example emerges of the challenge the federal government faces in bringing its systems into the 21st century.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

The statistic we hear bandied around is that 80% of the world's data and processing take place in mainframe machines. The mainframes on the market now -- IBM's System z -- are bulletproof servers that support all types of Web and non-Web services and applications. They will run countless instances of Linux, Unix and even Windows either virtualized within logical partitions or as part of a smaller-processor "specialty engine" that can be snapped into the system.

However, the mainframes that were built in the 1970s and 80s may be somewhat limited in what they can support. Apparently, according to news reports, the US Secret Service, which has global operations, is still stuck in the 1980s when it comes to IT. According to US Senator Joe Lieberman, the agency still runs a mainframe it initially purchased in the 1980s. The report notes that users "are at times unable to conduct searches from one system to another." It is estimated that the Secret Service needs about $187 million to update its system, but only has received $33 million so far.

Here's a video of 1980s mainframes in action (set to a marching tune).

As reported here at this blogsite, various US government agencies have been aggressively pursuing service-orientation of their systems, along with cloud, virtualization, and open source, to better integrate and manage huge expanses of stovepipes.

A model the Secret Service may follow, the report suggests, is the FBI's new $451 million Sentinel system, which will enable "agents to use a Web-based system to incorporate the FBI's old existing files."  A couple of years back, the FBI also launched an SOA-based initiative called Regional Data Exchange, or R-DEx, a series of information sharing pilots with regional databases. Under R-DEx, the FBI has created plug-ins to Justice Department databases for four regional law enforcement data sharing associations, with more to come -- using an SOA registry built with off-the-shelf IT products.

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