The next step in the evolution of a truly integrated state portal is coming to the Web in Georgia. In December, the state selected Sun as contractor for the new state portal, and final negotiations were concluded Feb. 14.
The following day, Georgia CIO Larry Singer talked to the Center for Digital Government about why Sun was selected over other well-known state government players, how the state's portal strategy plan is proceeding and how different vendors' Web services strategies compare.
Singer said the business side of the project was simple: Provide a more seamless interaction between citizen and government, and allow the citizen to define the parameters of their interactions with government.
From the technology side, said Singer, providing an enterprise face to government has historically been done by writing interfaces between back-end systems to support different programs, and passing data back and forth with those interfaces. Singer said that while some vendors have touted data warehousing and datamarts as the answer, "We've had a series of expensive data warehouse/datamart efforts around the country that have yielded none of the promise that they were supposed to yield."
So what strategies show the most promise?
"Over the last year and a half or so, some of the best minds in the business have been pointing out that XML, SOAP and UDDI can be rolled into a concept called 'Web services.' It is not only possible, but widely believed that the next great move in data processing is this Web services architecture. And there are five or six vendors who are, even as the standards are being refined, trying to establish their place in the market," said Singer
"Bill Gates says he's betting the company on his .Net strategy, a kind of a mixture of Web services' promise of systems integration with a new pricing model they hope will continue to allow them to grow their revenue stream.
"IBM has WebSphere and other products, and while they haven't yet articulated an architectural vision like .Net, they do have IBM Global Services, that has spent a lot of time and effort understanding how to use these products to provide the same benefit, not so much from an architectural perspective, but from a middleware, connectivity, Web services perspective, and they're very committed to it as well. Microsoft has a very architectural approach, IBM has a very services-oriented approach.
"Hewlett-Packard is also making a run on it," Singer explained, "based on their open HP-UX environment. Oracle and Computer Associates are chasing it too."
Singer said 38 vendors bid on Georgia's portal contract, and seven bid on the core portion -- the part the state called the "integration services" piece.
"Microsoft had a tightly integrated architected approach but it was closed," said Singer. "While their stuff all worked together in the way that we had envisioned, it only worked together as long as you used all their stuff. And it also required us to be in an IBM operating environment for our enterprise systems, and they didn't score very well on security in operating systems activity. Based on our experience, our data center folks didn't have confidence that we could run our very large enterprise on that platform. IBM didn't really have the vision, although you could have pieced some of the products together to meet a substantial part of what we were looking for. They didn't really have an integrated approach, and that was important to us.
"Sun, on the other hand, offered us [a system that was] integrated and integratable. They made a big push, saying that, 'You can pick some of our products, or you can pick all of