UK Country Report - October 2004
To: SOS Members
From: Dayantha Joshua
Date: 5 November 2004
1.1 Web Search Engine
The web-search software procured by ONS is FAST. The indexing this will provide will allow ONS web
users to find what they are looking for rapidly amongst the huge amount of data available on the NS
website. This is a key element to help deliver the ONS vision of the use of the web as its main
dissemination medium. (See the enclosed annexe for further details)
The second stage of the Intranet development is underway by ONS web consultants, Kudos. It continues
to act as a pilot for development of the NS web-site with experience being built up in the use of the
Tridion CMS software purchased last year. (Uses Fast search engine)
ONS has purchased the Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and the HR and Project
Planning modules are in the process of implementation. Further modules will be implemented as
required to fit in with the existing heavy schedule of modernisation work being undertaken within ONS.
1.4 Strategic Server Partnership
The first two new large Unix servers for hosting the Oracle environment have been purchased and the
first one was installed at the Newport site, initially to run the Oracle ERP system. The second server will
be installed in our out-hosted site in Cardiff.
1.5 Storage Strategy
Our second Storage Area Network (SAN) is being bought as a further stage in the ONS "twin" site
strategy. The SAN will be sited in our out-hosted site in Cardiff.
1.6 Computer Out-hosting
Initial plans to utilise the "TrueNorth" facilities being set up by the UK Governments Office of the e-Envoy
(OeE), have had to be changed as a result OeE inability to meet original committed dates. ONS has now
reverted to the original plan of using private sector premises for the initial site, which is still planned to be
in operation this financial year.
1.7 Management Software
ONS has purchased the ON Technology product for delivering software to the desktop called iCommand.
This works together with the Centennial Discovery product already in use within ONS. This product will
be used initially to deliver the upgrade to the XP operating system to the ONS desktop, but will in future
be used as the delivery mechanism for all ONS software from a central point, without the need to visit
1.8 XP transition
The XP environment has undergone testing and the rollout has started, slightly later than planned. This
began with laptops and will progress to the standard desktop, with an expectation of completing the main
rollout this financial year.
1.9 Laptop Security
New encryption software (Safeguard) will be loaded onto all laptops in parallel with the rollout of the XP
operating system. Additional use of "tokens" is also being investigated as a further security measure.
The final stages of the upgrade of ONS networks will be carried out this year, including a complete
rewiring of the Newport site. This will give ONS a fully switched network and provide the capacity and
resilience for the operation of the "modernised" environment.
1.11 Voice over IP
Voice over IP telephony is being trialled in the new annexe building at Newport. The technology will be
rolled-out to the rest of ONS over the next two years.
1.12 CASE Tool
Rational has been purchased as the CASE tool for the ONS systems development and testing
environment. It was installed in the summer for use on Phase 1 of the Statistical Modernisation
2. Implementing the Statistical Modernisation Programme
The Statistical Modernisation Programme has now been divided into more manageable phases, rather
than the "big-bang" approach previously being considered. Phase 1 of the Programme is set to deliver
the basic structures required, including the first implementation of the data repository, by mid-December
2004. Phases 2 and 3 managers have recently been appointed and detailed planning for these phases
Senior Information Management managers have completed a comprehensive IM Strategy for ONS. The
strategy shows what ONS wants to achieve in technology terms and what this will mean to IT users
within the organisation.
In response to the enormous skills demands that ONS modernisation will place on the IT function, ONS
has entered into a partnership agreement with Xansa, following a procurement process. Xansa now
work closely with ONS to help with all aspects of the modernisation of its statistical systems under the
Statistical Modernisation Programme (SMP). The eventual aim is for Xansa to provide deliverable
products, working with ONS staff, rather than just acting as a "body-shop". They have assisted ONS with
other projects with an IT requirement, including the Civil Registration Review and Neighbourhood
Statistics. Skills transfer is a requirement written into all contracts with Xansa, to ensure that ONS has
the in-house capabilities to support the modernised infrastructure.
5. Capability Transformation and Training
A team has been set up specifically to deal with capability transformation for all IT staff. As well as
transforming staff capability, it will also improve the capability of IT processes and methods. Further
groups of programming and analysis staff will be taken off support work and trained in the Java/Oracle
environment this year.
FAST Data Search (FDS) is a real-time search and information retrieval solution which can be used to
index, and search a varied amount of content, that is fresh, and relevant.
Content may be can extracted from websites, databases, and content management systems. Content
can also be pushed from other applications which can utilise the Fast Content API. The ONS Content
Management System "Tridion" uses such a mechanism to publish content to FDS.
When content is pushed to FDS, the structure of the retrieved content is preserved, and mapped to a
FastXML (an XML document) structure. This structure can then be mapped directly into the FDS index.
Fast uses "Collections", and "Pipelines (consisting of Document Processing Stages) as a way of pre-
processing content before it is indexed.
Fast Data Search accepts a wide range of different document formats, including Microsoft Word, and
Abode PDF formats.
These different types of content need to be processed in different ways. The FDS "Pipeline Approach"
caters for these differences.
A Pipeline can add "value to content" which has yet to be indexed. FDS supports ways of "boosting"
(increasing the relevancy) of certain parts of a document, depending on the documents characteristics.
These may include the data type (such as HTML), the language, or a particular phrase within a certain
part of the document. If this is found, the document can be boosted, making it more relevant. Any
search application using this collection would be able to make use of this relevancy.
But, equally important - another type of content is not forced to use this collection - meaning that different
approaches to pre-processing data may be applied to that collection.
FDS provides support for spell checking, synonym, and phrase matching. A search application can
instruct FDS to apply spell checking automatically, or apply "did you mean" spelling. FDS will return
suggestions to mis-spelt search phrase, which will allow the search to ask the user "did you mean
Statistics?" (when they entered "statisticss"). The synonym matching allows FDS to make alternative
search suggestions - allowing the user to enhance (broaden or narrow) their original query.
The ONS Intranet uses the Tridion Content Management System to structure pages, content, and site
structure. Pages are published in different categories including Business Areas, Committees and
Meetings, and Staff and Learning.
The front page of the intranet uses the Fast Query Language API (Querying/Searching API). This
allows a relevant query to be passed to the Fast Real Time Search component. A query will consist of a
keyword (or phrase), and may also take advantage of a number of Filters.
A Filter may ask FDS to return - "....relevant content that has been published in the last twelve hours....".
Because intranet related documents have a published time which is indexed by FDS, such a filter will use
this detail to "only return" relevant results. Other criteria for a Query includes "num of results to return",
and offset (if you are on the second page of search results - you may wish to return results 11-20).
Advanced Intranet Search allows the user to search for content published within two dates, match a
certain phrase, and allow the ordering of results by date, or relevance. All of these "choices" are passed
to FDS, as part of the query.
Relevant results are returned, and displayed to the user.
The SMP website will utilise FDS to index, and query data from a variety of data sources (utilising
Search applications will make ample use of this varied statistical data (such as Labour Market Statistics),
which can then be used to “drive” comprehensive search applications.
In addition to displaying “traditional search results (displayed sequentially on a webpage), FDS can
return XML based results, which (for example) may be used as a data source for mapping, or graph