group. "Our goal," he added, "is to provide the broadest possible access to a government's intranet."
Already, IBM has been working with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles to allow workers greater access to legacy data via an intranet. IBM also hopes that Lotus Notes will become the foundation for an agency's intranet, allowing workers to exchange information and messages and perform scheduling and other collaborative functions.
The Missouri court system has begun implementing Lotus Notes as the intranet and messaging foundation for its information systems project, which will connect the state's 120 court facilities, 2,000 court personnel and 20,000 Missouri attorneys.
In Oklahoma, the state's Department of Commerce has been a Notes user for the past seven years. Last year, it began using Notes for its intranet. More than 200 users are accessing 30 databases relating to state economic and development information. Some of those users are located in Europe and Asia, where the department maintains offices to attract international business to the state.
Prior to the development of the intranet, the department's foreign offices paid as much as one dollar per minute in phone line charges to access databases back home. Using Notes, they eliminated those charges by accessing the same data via the department's intranet. Rex Wershell, a database analyst with the department, said that Web-enabling Notes databases was an easy process thanks to Lotus' new Web software, Domino Server. "It's pretty neat," he said. "Basically you throw the switch and poof, it [the Notes server] becomes a Web server."
While IBM builds intranet capabilities into its products and services, Oracle Corp. is busy transforming itself into an intranet/ Internet-based company. "We're undergoing a radical transformation," said Mike Hichwa, principal technologist for Oracle Government. That transformation centers around the concept of network computing. While most people presume this concept to refer to Oracle's network computer -- the Web-based PC that costs less than $1,000 and is supposed to replace the Windows and Intel-based PC -- it's actually more than that.
Specifically, network computing is an architecture -- Oracle refers to it as Network Computing Architecture -- of common technologies that will allow PCs, network computers and other client devices (PDAs, etc.), to work with all Web servers, database servers and application servers over any network.
Oracle is pushing a centralized vision of computing with the Internet as the means of bringing people, data and computers together. The goal is to come up with a more stable and less complex way to process information. "Three out of four information systems fail to work or perform according to their original intentions," remarked Hichwa. "So many computer systems fail because they are a nightmare to deploy and upgrade."
Oracle believes Internet standards and Web technology overcome the complexities of today's computing environment with its high implementation costs and proprietary standards. By merging Internet standards with the strengths of client/server computing (namely robust business applications), customers can get the best of both worlds. The result, according to Hichwa, will be Web-enabled applications such as finance, payroll and human resources appearing on government intranets.
Sun Microsystems has always proclaimed that the "network is the computer." With intranets, that proclamation may come true. Bruce Elder, Sun's director of international government business, says you have to look at computing economics to understand what's happening. "Supply and demand is changing," he said. "For a long time, microprocessors were cheap and bandwidth was expensive. Now bandwidth is becoming much cheaper." As a result, agencies can build information infrastructures more economically.
At the same time, the Internet has ushered in the era of the thin client; PCs that rely on an intranet to access information don't need a lot of horsepower, memory and storage. "The result will be fat pipes