5. GOVnet

 

GOVnet’s development has been evolutionary. This is best illustrated in the following statement about the Human Resource Management System: "The HRMS system spawned the fiber-optic cabling of the Montpelier and Waterbury complexes. This became the core of a statewide data network which connects many state offices. The recognition that HRMS was two projects rather than one occurred only after the network development was well underway." [ Klein, Stephen A., Duncan W. Goss, Donald E. Dickson, Jr., "Study of Vermont State Data Processing System Purchases and Vermont State Information Systems Planning and Design," Joint Fiscal Office and Legislative Council, December 29, 1993, p.5.] Elsewhere in the same report: "This network, recently dubbed [italics mine] ‘GOVnet’, will set an information and communications direction for years to come." [ Klein, Stephen A., Duncan W. Goss, Donald E. Dickson, Jr., "Study of Vermont State Data Processing System Purchases and Vermont State Information Systems Planning and Design," Joint Fiscal Office and Legislative Council, December 29, 1993, p.1.] Appendix D provides a chronology of the evolution. It should be noted that at no time was GOVnet (as a network infrastructure) actually established, nor was an administrative group formally established to support a statewide network. In July 1995 four positions were loaned to the Agency of Administration from CIT to implement the legislation which funded distance learning [ ACT NO. 62 of the Acts of 1995] . FY1996 was the first year in which funds for GOVnet were separately appropriated.

5.1. Definition

The analysis conducted during this study revealed that the term GOVnet is used to mean several different things, including a) it is the group reporting to the state Chief Information Officer (CIO), [ There is no official GOVnet department. The four employees who are referred to as the GOVnet group are actually staff of the Agency of Administration. They are managed by the CIO, who reports to the Secretary of Administration.] b) it is a statewide telecommunications infrastructure, and c) it is Internet access. These definitions simultaneously denote a group of people; wires, cables and electronic switches; and a communication application. This disparity in definition has spawned some of the existing issues and concerns which have apparently led to this legislative study.

For the purposes of this report, and perhaps for future usage, the following definitions are proposed based on the existing three different meanings.

A sense of these entities is provided in three appendices. Appendix F is a diagram of the complex, physical networks in the state, and roughly corresponds to StateGovNet as it exists today. Appendix D contains an evolutionary chronology of the organization and the network. Finally, Appendix G contains excerpts from Vermont legislation and documents relating to the network and telecommunications in general.

5.2. StateGovNet

The earliest reference to what this report identifies as the physical network was defined in a 1993 memorandum: [ From ISAC Committee, Frederic J. Meier, Chair, to William H. Sorrell, Secretary of Administration, June 28, 1993] "The boundaries between infrastructure (backbone), agency, and user services will be those outlined in figure 7.3 of the VISP [ Vermont Information Strategy Plan] document; namely, responsibility for the network infrastructure will stop at the point-of-entry into the building, including the router and/or concentrator. All systems internal to the agency or department will be the responsibility of that agency or department." This established the scope and content of the physical network as a cohesive infrastructure.

5.3. Network Administration

Many significant state applications run over the physical network. To demonstrate the variety of applications a subset is included in Appendix E. They are the primary sources of "electronic traffic" on the network, with Internet activity for schools and libraries currently requiring much less capacity. All of these applications require network administration.

It is important to understand that once a physical connection is made to a network, the connection requires on-going administrative and technical support. The responsibilities of network administration described here are based on discussions with network administrators in the Agency of Administration. Activities traditionally associated with network administration have also been included.

Most large organizations develop technical support staff responsible for network services. The State of Vermont is no exception. Planning, designing, implementing and managing a large network that spans the state of Vermont demands a significant amount of work:

From a functional perspective, the above activities include what are usually called "network administration", and activities that are usually called "help desk". As mentioned in the beginning of this section, "GOVnet" has been evolutionary. This holds true also for the group assigned to support the network and their support activities. As such it may partially explain why some of the same activities, or types of activities, are also performed by the Communications and Information Technology (CIT) Support Center.