The devastating results of CCMS in Sacramento (Part 1)

Posted on May 28, 2011

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Everyone knew that the Sacramento courts had serious issues with CCMS V3. Until the BSA survey results were obtained by Courthouse News, few knew what or how significant the issues really were. 

 

Since both Orange County and Sacramento both revealed a wealth of information about both the program and implementation, we had our own technology people take a look at the issues. One of those people looking at the issues was one of AOC’s own senior technical analysts responsible for information technology design & construction throughout the judicial branch. This post represents their findings.

The failed experiment that is CCMS is all about control over the money and the information of the trial courts.

The CCMS architecture as envisioned consists of a client on the desktop and a server at the California Courts Technology Center that are connected over a wide area network link. These types of links are known for their latency, so operating any application in this manner will result in substantial latency delays from the time someone clicks on a mouse to the time an action is performed at the distant end, to the time the result of that action appears on your screen or at your printer. This is a fundamental architectural issue that any technical analyst anywhere in the court system could have clearly and easily forseen. This issue was underscored by Orange County’s local deployment in a local area network environment. It does not suffer from the same latency issues that a wide area network link like Sacramento is experiencing with the California Courts Technology Center. To alleviate some concerns about the architecture, the developer has introduced a package of software and services that is intended to reduce the latency. Due to the limitations presented by the fundamental physics of data traversing multiple mediums to its destination, this architecture can never work as envisioned.

Any court buying into this architecture is going to be experiencing Sacramento’s problems. This is why we would recommend that before any court deploy any version of CCMS, that the AOC first direct its attention to proving they can make it work in Sacramento, all on their own dime. Correct your first monumental screw-up before you go make more of them.

The use of Citrix by the Sacramento courts confirms the latency issue as Citrix is utilized to simulate a client on a local area network inside the CCTC. This is nearly the technical equivalent of Orange County deploying their CCMS locally. While this test was successful in both confirming the latency issues and the architectural shortcomings of the AOC’s stated goal, the AOC has conscientiously chosen to ignore the evidence and tells Sacramento that they will not support a citrix installation – because that would be tantamount to admitting the serious shortcomings of the architectural design. It would also be admitting that Orange County was correct in insisting it be on a local area network. If the actual case file images were stored in Arizona as well, the return path to render the document on a users screen would be represented by the bowling ball and the garden hose analogy. The latency would be unbearable.

Why has the AOC conscientiously chosen to ignore the evidence?

CCMS is not about venue transparency. CCMS is about the control of information and money. If CCMS were about producing a working application then the AOC would be addressing the architectural issues. The challenge to a local installation is that one must provide a level of access to the information that would be required to administer it. Chances are good that if you have the level of access to administer it then you have the level of access to modify it. As such, Orange County has access where they need it and Sacramento doesn’t. Orange County controls their information. The AOC controls Sacramento’s information. The AOC does not want any more Orange Counties because it does not control the information or money of Orange County as a result.

While Sacramento pays $57,000.00 per month to host V3 at the CCTC, Orange County does not pay that money. Nor do they reimburse the AOC for their management fees in this arrangement that assists in supporting AOC operations. CCMS at the CCTC is simply an elaborate way to get trial courts to part with their trial court funding to support AOC operations. It would be simple enough for each courthouse to have their own CCMS server serving that court – and replicating that data periodically with a mothership server that would store all data for all cases as the AOC envisions. This common technology architecture is utilized by every court that utilizes Microsoft Active Directory or Lotus Notes/Domino yet the AOC does not wish to employ it because they will no longer control the supply chain.

You’re probably wondering why we chose Steve Miller’s “go on take the money and run”. That was essentially the terms under which Deloitte has been executing this flawed contract but it is also the way that the AOC bills the trial courts for hosting these services. $57,000.00 per month to host just one application? Give me a break. Tibco services alone cost the court $10,000.00 per month as a part of that $57,000.00 per month figure.

Somewhere in the process Sacramento is picking up the costs of both in-house AOC technical analysts and in-house AOC applications analysts that represent a part of that $57,000.00 per month support costs simply because this is the way the AOC does business. How many smaller courts can afford to pay $10,000.00 per month for Tibco ISB before they ever are able to use the application? Zero. This writes some 30+ courts out of the CCMS equation. Why is Tibco ISB required? Because the application is hosted on the outskirts of hell as opposed to a local area network.

All of the evidence clearly suggests that the only way to implement CCMS is over a local area network. Yet as of this very moment, in their zeal for this control they are casting aside all of the professionals and remain focused on a solution that defies the laws of physics and basic logic at any cost. The truth represented by empirical evidence does not fit their gut feeling, the “truthiness” that this is the level of control over your information and your funds that they must have. Without it being a central deployment under central control where they are positioned to bill the trial courts as a service provider, CCMS makes no sense to the AOC.

(End of Part 1)