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California Agency Embraces Mobility, Cloud Computing

The state's Public Utilities Commission is using the Open Campus application to give employees wireless access as well as virtual desktops and diskless laptops to ensure data security.
At the same time that the utilities commission IT staff rolled out Open Campus, it brought out a second application, Momentum, an application in the cloud and based on Ektron, a commercial enterprise content management system.

Kelley Eitzen, associate programmer analyst at the PUC, explained that the Momentum site can set up shared knowledge bases, wikis, blogs, and other social networking measures where employees share the information.

Momentum allows end users not only to upload their own content, but has page management features that put the power to modify the entire page in departmental hands. The IT staff has created utilities that let departmental experts log in and file documents. If also offers calendaring and discussion forums. The commission's executive director, Paul Clanon, blogs with it.

External experts, by invitation, can add expertise to the site. An employee who thinks he can learn from another will negotiate for permission to read the senior employee's entries. Employees with knowledge in a given problem area can be put in touch with other employees with related knowledge, Eitzen said. The IT staff considered adding Microsoft Outlook, Web Access, a browser-based email client, to Momentum but decided against it. "That would be another attack vector," he said.

Instead, the Momentum user switches into Open Campus, with its already-established security measures. "We are trying to reduce the number of attack vectors as much as possible," added Bobella.

The PUC staff has innovated in yet another area. As Lawson took office, it became clear to her that some skilled PUC end users had built their own applications with Microsoft Access, and valuable PUC data was residing in them. "For 15 months, we've been playing a giant game of 'Here, kitty, kitty,'" she said, trying to get end users to submit their applications to IT for review.

She counts 38 end user applications with "mission critical" data in them, and she her staff needed to convince PUC employees that they should cooperate with IT on how they are used.

Through the use of Oracle's free Application Express, PUC IT can bundle end user applications into a set of files that can be uploaded on a periodic basis into IT's Oracle 10g, ensuring recovery of the data, even if the end user's application fails or the end user leaves the agency.

The application owner "retains all his rights" to use and modify the application, but IT maintains the security of the data and backs it up, she says. "If they need assistance, IT will be there to help. They're an asset we want to protect for the users," she said.


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