ICL Plc and Microsoft Corp have announced the first deliverables of their recently announced global alliance (CI No 3,418), in the form of Pericles, a major new architecture for local government computing in the UK. Named for the Athenian statesman who sought to enable all citizens to take an active part in government, Pericles is […]
ICL Plc and Microsoft Corp have announced the first deliverables of their recently announced global alliance (CI No 3,418), in the form of Pericles, a major new architecture for local government computing in the UK. Named for the Athenian statesman who sought to enable all citizens to take an active part in government, Pericles is a four-layered, object-oriented environment based on Windows NT and Microsoft’s DCOM distributed object architecture. ICL, which claims to have around 40% of the one billion-pound local government market, has been researching the requirement for the past two years, and says with the current UK government thinking being to open up government services to the customer, and provide a more one-stop-shop approach to both local and central government services, existing local government software is no longer up to the job. It has traditionally been developed on a departmental basis, and departments such as housing, benefits, tax revenue collection have been totally separate and unable to share information about their common customers. These ‘customers’ – if council tax payers or welfare seekers can be persuaded to think of themselves as local government customers – will eventually be offered a variety of means of access to government services, so the Pericles architecture supports email, multimedia kiosk, internet, telephone, letter or face to face interfaces using a browser-based front end. At the back end, it has a set of business objects which will be common to all departments, such as the customer, a set of application objects, all of which can be re-used across departments, and in between the front end and the application objects is a process management layer which runs a work-flow-based system. ICL’s general manager, local government business solutions Tim Wootton-Beard, says the company evaluated all the options before finally deciding on the Microsoft route – well he would say that – but he claims the Open Management Group and Corba alternative was too slow, in that it took some sixty or seventy suppliers to come together to make decisions on common interfaces and standards. Wootton-Beard says ICL would have had to buy sets of tools from a lot of different suppliers and validate them all working together. Also, the Corba players, he said wanted a slice of the cake, whereas Microsoft is simply selling its tools and operating system licenses and no more. Many of ICL’s existing customers are running ICL’s traditional VME applications, and some are running Unix. ICL says it will continue to support all these customers until at least 2005, while offering a step by step approach for them to move to the new architecture. Part of this would be ICL’s Trimetra servers, which enable VME and Windows NT to run in the same box. ICL is currently talking to the first interested customers for Pericles, which may be local authorities or their outsourcing companies, and is looking for reference sites. The first Pericles deliverables will be out in the middle of next year, and will be ‘citizen-based’ systems for revenues and benefits.