FBI wields blades to catch bad guys

While most criminal activity databases at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems division run on big iron, its latest data sharing initiative will be the first to use blade servers. The National Data Exchange initiative (N-DEx), which allows state, local and federal law enforcement organizations to share incident reports, is rolling out this year with blade servers on the front end.

N-DEx will depend on thousands of local law enforcement agencies nationwide pushing incident data from their record management systems into a central N-DEx database in an industry standard, XML-based format. Through a Web front end, qualified users can then access the system to spot criminal activity trends that cross state and local borders. The system also allows local law enforcement to create ad-hoc, virtual investigative teams and joint task forces that collaborate to bring down criminal enterprises that cross borders – something that has been difficult for investigators to pull off up until now.

While arrest and criminal identity data has been shared, incident report records that detail what actually transpired have not, nor have the records detailing many unsolved crimes. That’s hampered the ability of investigators to “connect the dots” to solve those crimes.

I spoke with Kevin Reid, program manager for N-DEx at the FBI’s CJIS division, about the architecture behind the cutting edge data sharing service for this week’s story on the state of inter-agency data sharing since 9/11. But as the story expanded to fill all available space, some of the techier stuff ended up on the cutting room floor. (For more on N-DEx and how it is ushering in a new era of criminal record data sharing nationwide, see this week’s story).

“This is the first big system where we’ve adopted blade technology,” Reid told me. The back-end database runs on an HP Quarterdome setup, but the application servers and other up front servers run on server blades. “That’s a departure, but also the trend for Next Generation Identification,” Reid said, referring to a project just getting under way to revamp the FBI’s national fingerprint database, the Automated Fingerprint ID System. For more information on AIFIS and other crime-related databases and how they’re being shared, be sure to read the story and view the infographic that shows how various military, Justice Department and Homeland Securty identity and criminal activity databases are linked up.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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