EDS Links U.S. Postal Service Offices With Commercial Solution

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EDS Links U.S. Postal Service
Offices With Commercial Solution

By Nick Wakeman

Staff Writer

A new contract from the U.S. Postal Service may deliver in two ways: it could give Electronic Data Systems Corp. more business with that agency and offer a route for its commercial products to reach the federal market.

The $42 million contract for managing and monitoring computer links among about 7,000 post offices will build on EDS' commercial Renascence Center offering for managing distributed systems.

The Herndon, Va.-based division of EDS won the contract in part because it could show the Postal Service operations similar to those the agency plans to establish, said Tim May, EDS' director of business development for the Postal Service.

"One Renascence Center [in Auburn Hills, Mich.,] is supporting systems running on NT, Unix and Novell with 2,000 servers and 33,000 devices," he said. Devices can include desktop PCs, printers and interfacility communication devices.

The company also is working on a project with General Motors Corp. to support links with 8,000 car dealerships, May said. Since October, EDS has been bringing 500 dealerships online for GM each month, May said.

"The Postal Service project [with 7,000 post offices] is very similar," he said.

EDS is now pursuing similar business with agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, May said. "There is going to be more of this work, especially with agencies that spread out over the United States," he said.

"It is extremely expensive to put the equipment and trained people at every location," May said.

For the Postal Service contract, EDS will establish a center in Raleigh, N.C., that will link EDS employees to about 7,000 post offices and will be able to remotely troubleshoot and identify problems with local area networks, servers and point-of-sale devices, May said.

"This is a whole new environment for us," said James Healy, manager of product operations for the Postal Service. "We hope to be able to provide service to customers and among the [postal] centers that we have never been able to do before."

The Distributed Systems Operational Support contract, awarded in January, By the end of the third year, the Raleigh center will employ about 400 people. If option years are exercised, the value could reach $200 million over 11 years.

While customers coming to post offices will notice little, except for new point-of-sale machines, postal workers will be able to keep accounting and other records up to date more easily, Healy said.

Postal clerks can call EDS workers in Raleigh when problems with equipment occur. The system also can automatically prompt EDS staffers when there are glitches, May said.

Although EDS employees will man the center, Healy declined to call the contract "outsourcing of services." "It is not outsourcing as such because we never had [the services] 'in-sourced' to start with," he said.

The Postal Service also retains ownership of the equipment. "The building, the terminals, everything belongs to us," Healy said. "EDS is providing the staff to do the work."

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