Original Date: 04/26/1999
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Web-Based Data System Solutions
Marshall Space Flight Center’s (MSFC’s) Engineering Systems Department developed a series of Web-Based Data System Solutions for information and document management applications. Prior to these systems, various uncontrolled, undocumented processes as well as hardware and software platforms were used at the Center. This situation created problems in processing and accessing information; handling security; and changing or developing systems. As MSFC began downsizing, these problems became more acute. Web-based data systems were recognized as a way to establish a paperless environment in support of ISO-9001 certification, and provide immediate accessibility to information per NASA’s faster, better, cheaper approach.
MSFC’s systems are based on a web development tool called Tango designed by Pervasive Software, Inc. in Austin, Texas. Tango is a cross-platform, visual productivity tool for the distributed electronic enterprise. This tool allows developers and organizations to efficiently and cost effectively tie distributed data and computing resources into practical, web-based Intranet information systems. Tango is one of several commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) tools that provides a programming environment to facilitate the creation of distributed knowledge management or systems management applications. Traditional mainframe and client server architectures are too inflexible for implementing close, but fluid, inter-business integration which is driving the increased adoption of more flexible, loosely coupled web-distributed systems. The goal of multi-tier web-distributed applications like Tango is to deliver all of a corporation’s information assets and resources to the point of use or need with real-time responsiveness. For the web-based system applications developed at MSFC, Tango was used as a translator (Figure 2-6) between a user’s web browser and any source database. Unlike static networks in which the user remains connected to the server, a web-based system only requires the user to be connected to the web server when completing an action, then the connection is broken. This approach allows the user to draw information from any accessible database over the Internet.
To date, more than seven major web-based system applications have been developed at MSFC. One example is the Program/Project Data System (PDS). This tool provides project managers with a documented, ISO-compliant system to review and approve in-house and external documentation. Features include identification and tracking of data requirements, on-line status reports, and automatic feeding of information into Document Control Board input screens to prevent re-entry of information. The PDS also provides the capability to reserve and track the status of MSFC document numbers and program/project-specific document numbers. This system uses a secure electronic documentation review process and is being upgraded to include a configuration control documentation review process.
All of MSFC’s web-based systems are ISO compliant. They provide documented control; electronic review and approval capability; security; and accessibility which is not platform dependent. The only requirement for access is a web browser, and the systems are fully compatible with existing user processes and software. These systems also enable MSFC to realize significant savings as a result of reduced time required for system development and changes, and reduced resources required for operation and maintenance.
Figure 2-6. Web-Based System Configuration
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