Mississippi, IBM Centralize Public Safety

UPDATE

Mississippi officials announced at a press
conference Wednesday the launch of phase two of the state’s three-phase project
to centralize the databases of three
counties’ fire departments, police stations and emergency-response offices.

Officials said the Automated System Project is a pilot program and the first of a planned nationwide system to link all sheriff’s offices, police departments, fire departments and EMS offices across the nation into a unified system. In the process, it will provide the computing backbone for the next generation of US homeland security, they said.

The Mississippi Automated System Project (ASP) connects the criminal records, arrest
warrants, hazardous materials data and other public-safety records for
Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties.

Thanks to a $14 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Justice, procured by the
efforts of Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and
Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the state began work on the project with IBM , which won the project bid back in 2002.

Mark Melenovsky, an analyst with research firm IDC, said the project has the
potential to become the testbed for a national rollout, though given the
classified nature of many government security initiatives, it’s hard to
determine whether other projects are in the works.

“I’m assuming that not too many of these Homeland Security and government
deals can be made public, but this one was with the University of Southern
Mississippi and some of the local law enforcement and fire departments in
southern Mississippi,” he said. “If it works out, and it seems to be a
cost-effective solution for that grouping of three counties, it has the
potential to be rolled out on a broader scale.”

The first phase, completed in February, provided a single point of access to the
existing jail management system of the three county jails. Phase three, which begins in
October, will make remote access via laptops, BlackBerry’s and other mobile
devices a reality for personnel in the field.

Before the state implemented the project, requesting inter-county records
required a phone call and manually transferring data. With the Mississippi ASP, the
information is now only a mouse-click away.

“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,” ASP Director Julian Allen said in a statement.

Officials involved in the project hope a successful
deployment in Mississippi will herald a nationwide deployment of the system,
tying all public-safety records into either one database or a cluster of databases.

“It’s establishing one heck of a template to go statewide, nationwide with. We
feel we are proving that this is the way to go. Mississippi has the strong
potential to be the first [state] that has all local public agencies on the
same system, and we’re just waiting for the other 49 states to plug into
us.”

That’s music to the ears of IBM. For its part, the company supplies
the eServer iSeries 825 server,
running Tarantella’s Secure Global Desktop Enterprise Edition.
The server, capable of storing up to 58 terabytes of data on a
64-bit RISC POWER4 processor, can also store linkups to a possible 320
communications lines and two
eServer
xSeries 445
4U rack-mounted systems to handle transactions.

Playing the back-up role is a second iSeries 825 located 60 miles away running MIMIX, a
high-speed failover to prevent any downtime that occurs on the main system.

“When you have that kind of data and that type of client, you want to
make sure your systems don’t go down,” said Jay Bretzmann, IBM director of
eServer xSeries.

For the project, the server was broken down into three partitions to run
OS400, Novell SuSE Linux and Windows operating systems. The Windows OS is
used only because the counties use an existing database to store their
mug shots and wanted the GUI front end. For the long haul, most
of the application power will come from the Linux partition, “for more reliable
access and extensible access, as well as data-broker capabilities,”
Bretzmann said.

Melenovsky said the design of the project’s platform was something common in
many of today’s corporate networks — a mix of application integration
focusing on synchronous information that’s found in many heterogeneous
environments and the basis for IBM’s POWER architecture.

“The interesting part of it was on the different platform integration that
came together to create a solution these customers wanted,” he said. “The
iSeries is pretty reliable and a kind of low-management cost solution. And
then to be able to integrate that with the Web-based front end with Linux
and then the Windows system. I thought it was interesting from an IBM
perspective of being able to integrate a lot of their different products —
xSeries, iSeries, DB2, WebSphere and others — all together and make this
work.”

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