The Wisconsin Dept. of Justice is going against the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage.
Bureau of computing service application development manager David M. Wolfe readily admits that the department's legacy TIME application (Transaction Information for Management of Enforcement) still does what law enforcement officials need it to -- namely, act as a messaging switch between officials on the street and local, state and federal databases.
But the technology is old in the tooth -- it was implemented in 1998 -- and rather than purchase a new version from the vendor, the DOJ decided to bring it in house and rewrite it using XML, Web services, SOAP on HTTPs all over a service-oriented architecture, Wolfe said.
The new eTIME system, he hopes, will bring law enforcement officials information on suspects quicker than the current TIME system, and save more lives.
"It's our most critical application" Wolfe said.
The old browser-based TIME system is an IBM AIX Unix application running with an Oracle database. The new eTIME, expected to be in production by the middle of 2005, will be a J2EE Java app running on the Tomcat application server.
Wolfe explained that an officer at a traffic stop, for example, can from his vehicle laptop use the eTIME server-to-server interface to query different databases for information on a driver. The server would call a Web service over the DOJ's private Badgernet network. An XML gateway would then route the message via another Web service to call the data from a criminal history repository, for example. The results are gathered and transformed to XML, then a Web service is called at the law enforcement end and the results are sent back.
Local offices can also use the system to access data from the FBI or other out-of-state agencies. ETime XML messages follow the Global Justice XML Data Model (Global JXDM), a standard data reference model for exchanging information within the justice and public safety communities. Wolfe said Global JXDM posed bigger hassles for his four-person development team than the transition to SOA and Web services, for example.
"We had written some in-house Java apps, intranet and Internet apps too where we had to add Web services. We also had a small project as a warm-up where we used Web services to communicate to a private gateway to other states' information," Wolfe said. "We've got very bright people here who managed to pick up the Web services and XML stuff without much training. For the GJXML implementation, they were sent to training; it's a complicated standard."
Wolfe said one of the DOJ's business partners required the Global JXDM, otherwise he might have chosen a different direction.
"Global JXDM is a tremendous roadblock; it added eight or nine months to our project," Wolfe said. "It's a cumbersome standard, but the end goal is good. It should result in simpler of sharing of justice information between local, state and federal, but it has a steep learning curve. It adds up front to design and development."
The DOJ also had to invest in an XML gateway for its security and routing needs. It chose Sarvega's XML Guardian Gateway over seven others in this market, Wolfe said. The gatway does XML validation and transformations, in addition to malicious content checking and authentication to LDAP server.
"Anywhere along this pipeline, an XML message could be rejected for any number of reasons," said Craig Hughes, eTIME project manager.
Wolfe, meanwhile, said the department won't necessarily calculate ROI based on dollars and cents.
"It's hard to quantify monetary savings," he said. "We are interested in getting information to law enforcement quickly and disseminating it to a wide audience quickly."