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Tracking elk in Colorado

Mar 09, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsWeb Development

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is a year into a Web services project and is angling to become an information hub and a model for sharing data.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) in Denver is a year into a Web services project and is angling to become an information hub and a model for sharing data.

The government agency uses its Captive Elk Facility Web service to track 160 domestic elk herds in the state. The herds are suffering from Chronic Wasting Disease, typified by chronic weight loss leading to death.

Under a government mandate to collect and disseminate information about the disease, CDA needed to centralize data collected by three of its divisions – Brand Inspection, which inventories herds; Colorado State University Laboratories, which tests elk samples; and Animal Industry, which examines test results and recommends action.

To pull it all together, CDA spent 10 weeks and $100,000 to build its Web service, which is based on Microsoft’s .Net. The Web service provides access to a database where the divisions input their data and run reports.

“Previously, the brand division would collect hard copy data on the herds and put it into their proprietary database, then everything was shared via fax,” says John Picanso, CTO at CDA.

The Web service uses SOAP and WSDL and includes hooks for UDDI, although that technology is not used currently. It has a Web portal front end that each division uses to access the database through a browser. The front end uses SOAP messages to trigger Web services that make XML-based procedure calls, such as “input data” or “run reports,” into a Microsoft SQL database.

Picanso says CDA could have built the application in one of four ways, including as a client/server application. But Web services was the only method that worked over the 64K frame relay pipe that connects the brand division, which handles 80% of the data, to the main CDA office.

Moreover, Web services mean CDA easily can integrate its data with other applications, particularly those that the Department of Wildlife runs, which tracks wild elk herds. Picanso also plans to use the Web services model this summer to integrate data on West Nile Virus from a handful of government agencies.

“Government agencies have all this iron sitting around and apps that are 15 years old,” Picanso says. “And since the days of decent IT budgets are long past, let’s keep this stuff up for a few more years, throw on a little different way we are going to access it, [such as] XML, and keep running. What people need to figure out is that they should consider Web services their gateway.”

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