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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|Volume V, Issue 10||October 2002|
By David M. Blocher and David H. Ellis
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Bureau of Information Services (BIS) are collaborating to construct a general purpose node for the exchange of XML files using the latest Web services technology. DEP received a Network Readiness Grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to help develop a pilot node for the exchange of standards-based environmental information between the states and EPA. BIS is planning to develop and deploy the system using Oracle 9iAS technology in a manner that will enable other agencies to use this capability. This project is one aspect of the DEPs One Stop endeavor to upgrade its environmental information management systems to consolidate data across DEP programs into an integrated database, and provide public access to most departmental information.
The Network Through the use of open standards for business-to-business Web services, the Network Blueprint for a National Environmental Information Exchange Network (NEIEN) applies technologies and approaches that transformed Internet business use, to environmental agencies data exchange. The core of the Network, however is not technology. It is a commitment to change the way data is exchanged.
Based on open standards for Web services that can interoperate with many diverse hardware and software products, the Network requires a commitment to develop and adhere to common data standards in the environmental community. It will become the primary conduit for information exchanged between state environmental agencies and the USEPA, and is expected to dramatically improve the quality and availability of environmental data to environmental agencies, regulated entities, and the public.
The Maine Node Maines DEP is one of seven states plus the USEPA currently establishing nodes/servers that compose the NEIEN. This work is part of a national effort called the Node 1.0 Project, which is developing and proving a common specification for all states to implement (http://www.sso.org/ecos/eie/NodeAtAGlance030702.pdf). DEP asked BIS to build the node using Oracles latest version of Application Server middleware (9iAS Release 2, version 9.0.2) and to house and maintain the node so it is available to all agencies as the States XML portal.
Aspiring to meet the aggressive project timeline set by the national Node 1.0 Group, the Maine node version 1.0 is scheduled to be functioning by 2/1/03. Preparatory work includes: 1) establishing server hardware and software to enable file queries and transmissions, 2) developing the Node 1.0 Groups application for DEP, 3) cleaning DEP data for electronic transmission via the node to USEPA in XML format, and 4) resolving interoperability problems with other participants. All environmental information exchanged on the network will be in XML format, and will adhere to standard XML schema that are being developed by other workgroups as part of the larger NEIEN effort.
Once the node is in production status, DEP will meet its USEPA-mandated reporting requirements by making the required data available to the USEPA node. USEPAs Central Data Exchange (CDX) node will electronically request data through XML-formatted requests (i.e. nine Web services will be supported initially) and automatically update its databases with information retrieved from the DEP and other network nodes. No human intervention is required.
State of the Art Opportunitities and Cost Savings for State Agencies The node itself is not just for environmental information exchange. DEP is just the first State agency to step into the XML arena with an enterprise focus, and to be willing to fund version 1.0 of the node. Once it is established and tested, other State of Maine agencies can use it to run their XML-based applications.
BIS plans to offer application development using Oracle 9iAS R2 technology for these agency applications. We hope the several State agencies currently investigating or developing similar XML applications will consider using the enterprise XML node at BIS. This will allow them to 1) avoid duplicating research and training expenses in numerous software packages, hardware, and middleware, and 2) resolve several key issues, such as firewall compatibility, secure access, authentication, encryption, compression, message type and throughput, parsing, use and support of public registries and repositories, acknowledgement and error messages, and network Trading Partner Agreements with executable online flow configuration files. In addition, the State benefits by avoiding the duplication/proliferation of incompatible XML servers.
The technology stack being used in the Node 1.0 Project includes UDDI, WSDL, SOAP, DIME, XML, Java, Oracle 9iAS R2 middleware, and Oracle JDeveloper as the development environment. This is a rapidly changing set of cutting-edge software. Frequent training will keep Maine node support staff and developers current regarding new releases of each layer as new features are added, and as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C http://www.w3.org/ ) officially adopts certain software (and versions) as open industry standards. NEIEN has pledged to use W3C standards whenever they exist to remain an open solution using the latest technology for secure transmittal of XML-formatted environmental information. Maine agencies will benefit from this commitment to quality and openness whenever they use the XML node for data exchange.
The States best "bang for the buck" from the benefits of electronic commerce technologies such as XML, Web services, and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) (http://maine.gov/ec/eaireview/eaibenefits.htm) depends on the technologies being implemented once centrally and thereafter used by all agencies. Additional savings and faster throughput are realized by implementing a seamless, single vendor solution, since administrative and maintenance expenses are not incurred to customize multiple vendors integration software packages.
Interested in leveraging the States investment in the enterprise XML node for XML messaging or Web services? Contact: David H. Ellis, Node Project Manager at BIS, at 207-624-9484 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or David M. Blocher, DEP Information Technology Officer and Node Project Sponsor, at 207-287-7966 or email@example.com.