David W. Filiatrault, Craig A. Lightle, James E. Simmons, Jerrold M. Grochow
Center for Advanced Technologies
American Management Systems, Inc.
Fairfax, VA 22033
The initial services we sought to provide included:
Developing a commercial server on the Web also meant that we had to deal with a number of issues including:
This presentation discusses the approach that we took and the various issues that our organization had to deal with in establishing AMS on the World-Wide-Web.
To provide better service and to open new opportunities for collaboration, we made the decision to develop a World-Wide-Web server. The advent of Mosaic as a “user friendly” tool for accessing the Internet has changed the perception of Internet use (and users) literally overnight. We saw this as an opportunity to establish a new way of providing access to our services - and of accessing our public.
This presentation discusses the approach that we took and the various issues that our organization had to deal with in creating a Web server for a commercial organization.
In other words, our intent was to provide a “full service” operation for all of the organizations and people with whom we interact.
Release 1 of the AMS WWW Server is currently available internally to AMS users over our world-wide network (AMSWAN). Internal users use TCP/IP to access our WWW Server running on a 486-based personal computer under the Windows NT operating system.
AMSWAN has been connected to the Internet using UUNET as our service provider for over a year. Anyone on AMSWAN with TCP/IP access has access to most Internet capabilities. On October 31, we will make the AMS WWW server publicly accessible over the Internet by accessing http://www.amsinc.com.
Two key types of concerns were expressed in meetings of our internal Internet Task Force:
The first issue could be dealt with by appropriate technical architecture of our Internet gateway, but the second would require an on-going effort as well as the establishment of new policies. Both the design of the technical architecture and the discussion of policy were carried out primarily on-line via Lotus Notes with the sponsorship of AMS's Center for Advanced Technologies.
The two-tiered firewall system is built using two Ethernet segments and one IP router. The IP router is used to link AMS to UUNET providing minimal packet filtering on an unsecure Ethernet segment and full packet filtering on the secure segment. The combined WWW/FTP server resides on the "unsecure" network. The secure segment is configured with appropriate IP packet filtering to prevent inbound Internet requests from passing onto the secure Ethernet which could then compromise AMS's wide-area network.
Most of the discussions in designing our Web server were focused on a broad range of management issues. It is impossible to bring up a new corporate communications mechanism like a Web server without surfacing many of these issues. While we did not "solve" them all, we found approaches that provided AMS with an acceptable degree of protection without unduly hampering our ability to create a complete Web server.
Security of our internal network was of primary concern. If we had not been able to deal with this issue, we would not have proceeded any further. One approach considered was to create a totally separate Internet connection for externally accessible servers but it was felt that this was not sufficiently flexible for our purposes. The two-tiered firewall described above provided the right combination of security and flexibility for AMS.
Some of the issues we are dealing with here are still awaiting legal precedent and court resolution. At the current time, we feel confident that we can maintain appropriate legal rights over any AMS copyrighted materials that we put on our server. We will secure permission from other organizations directly for any other copyrighted works that we want to put on-line.
The simplest way to protect trade secrets is to keep them secret. We will not put any information on our server that falls into this category. We are awaiting the arrival of secure communications on the Web before dealing with this type of information.
Two-way communication, e.g. allowing people to request that we send them more information, is an important capability provided via a Web server. The issue we have to deal with is how to control access to this capability. If we were to get thousands of requests for information, for example, this would present a significant problem (our business is focused on doing larger projects with a small number of client organizations, perhaps only a few hundred in total). With the potential Internet audience of millions, most of whom are neither potential partners nor clients, this causes a great deal of concern.
Our initial approach is to provide e-mail addresses for requesting further information. If this results in an acceptable response rate, we will probably add data entry forms to Web documents. We will also carefully monitor requests and our ability to respond to ensure that we provide good service to legitimate requests.
AMS is a very decentralized organization and many different groups will be preparing information to be included in our Web server. We needed a mechanism to ensure quality and consistency of presentation across services and across areas of the company. Our approach was to treat information on the Web server the same way we would treat a marketing brochure or even our annual report. These types of documents go through stringent review processes within the company and we are subjecting all Web server content to that same level of scrutiny.
Our Ad Hoc Internet Task Force has become an on-going group. We discuss issues. We review policies. We come up with new ideas for additional Web services. We were able to deal with each of these issues at least to some degree and have been able to establish AMS on the World-Wide-Web
Having the opportunity to create a new business medium for your company does not happen very often. The Internet, the World-Wide-Web, and particularly Mosaic, have provided an opportunity that has enormous potential for changing the way in which many business interactions occur. Our ability to set up a World-Wide-Web server for AMS in a relatively short time is just one indication of why thousands of organizations are flocking to the Web as a potential marketplace. We plan to continue the evolution of our server, both with new materials and with new services. We fully expect that all of our customers, vendors, business partners, employees, and recruits will find something of interest and importance on AMS's server on the Web.
David Filiatrault, Craig Lightle, James Simmons, and Jerrold Grochow are all associated with AMS's Center for Advanced Technologies in Fairfax, VA. Mr. Filiatrault is a technical staff member in AMS's Financial Industry Group. Mr. Lightle is a Principal in the Network Services Group. Mr. Simmons is a Senior Principal in the Corporate Technology Group. Dr. Grochow is AMS's Chief Technology Officer and Director of the Center for Advanced Technologies. Research and development of AMS on the World-Wide-Web is sponsored by the Center for Advanced Technologies. The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Arlette Hart, Michael Jokich, Betsy Lee, Robert Lindsay, and Michael Palmer.
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