By Paul Sandlin. OIT
When the State of Maine made its initial foray on to the Internet it did so as www.state.me.us. This name was acquired for us by the University of Maine System which, as a research facility, had started using the Internet some years before. In 2002, after a number of years, the Federal government made domain names in the dot-gov namespace available to Local, State and Federal governments. Given the high level of integrity assured by the Federal government the State then renamed its Internet portal from www.state.me.us to www.Maine.gov. To be clear, the change was not prompted because something was wrong with www.state.me.us it is just that www.Maine.gov is better when communicating with the public.
In the aftermath of the change, the State adopted, in principle, the idea that we would continue to use state.me.us exclusively on our internal network. However, aside from adding a new name for the portal and developing a naming standard for internal devices little was done to make the principle a reality. This was partly the result of a less than universal understanding of the need for different namespaces inside as opposed to outside the State’s network, and partly because we lacked the technological infrastructure to make it happen. For example the State has services that are hosted inside the network that have consumers out on the Internet. This means those services are presented to the public using some name derived from state.me.us; this is contrary to the principle referenced above. We have lacked the means to rename the service and therefore have had to live with the resultant compromise.
Since that time a number of things have changed that make the prospect of cleaning up our namespaces a reasonable goal: Most importantly, in January 2005 the Governor directed the CIO to coordinate one-stop service delivery of government services. On the heels of this, a policy was created by OIT to formalize the convention of using Maine.gov exclusively to deliver services to the public. Lastly, technology and circumstance have converged in our interest. Network Services, Enterprise Operations and the Office of the CIO are working to opportunistically replace the aging Microsoft ISA 2000 server with a fully functional proxy server that can allow us to change the name of services on the fly so that they are presented to the public as Maine.gov.
There are still a number of obstacles to be overcome before we actually achieve full name separation between the Internet and the Intranet:
- We need to complete the transfer of state.me.us to the State. Even though the University system has been an excellent partner and able administrator of that name it is appropriate we take ownership and responsibility since we have invested so heavily in it. That transfer is underway and we expect it to be completed in the next month.
- We need to acquire the proxy server mentioned above. Additionally, it needs to be provisioned in a fashion that corresponds with the critical role it will play. It must be unassailable given that everything the State puts to the Internet will pass through it.
- Lastly we need to plan for an orderly migration away from the use of state.me.us for Internet addressing so that we do not confuse our public who for some services have rightly become accustomed to finding them there.
This might seem like a lot of work over some silly names. However, it is through these names that our citizens avail themselves of services. It is critical to be cognizant that the public are frequently unfamiliar with the internals of government and are likely to encounter difficulty navigating its processes. A simplified and uniform naming scheme can, at least, promise them a starting point.
References: State of Maine Domain Name Management Policy ( http://www.maine.gov/oit/oitpolicies/DNSPolicy_Final.htm )
For questions and comments please contact Paul Sandlin at firstname.lastname@example.org