The promise beneath Forge.mil
The Defense Information Systems Agency’s efforts to accelerate network-centric technology advances have gained notable traction in recent weeks with the launch of a new collaboration Web site, named Forge.mil.
On the surface, Forge.mil is an adaptation of a public Web site known as SourceForge.net that hosts thousands of open-source software projects. The difference is that Forge.mil has been designed to meet the Defense Department's security requirements.
But in many regards, Forge.mil represents a significant breakthrough in the way software solutions are developed, certified and deployed for the systems that support the Global Information Grid.
At its core, the new collaboration site will offer three services.
One service, known as SoftwareForge, will provide software version control and life cycle management services for open-source and community-source software developers who concentrate on DOD projects. It also will provide a software repository for those seeking reusable software components.
The second service, named ProjectForge, offers on-demand software, on a fee-for-service basis, that provide life cycle management tools that help developers meet military project requirements.
Both services are wrapping up beta test work and are expected to be available to qualified users by the end of March.
The third service, slated for delivery this summer, is named CertificationForge. It is designed to provide tools and services that would reduce the amount of time needed to test and certify software being delivered for use on military networks.
The strategy behind Forge.mil is not just to harness communities of developers to build and test software faster. Its real aim is to accelerate the certification process by making Forge.mil a place where the artifacts and byproducts of certification testing can be readily exchanged.
All of this is certainly not new. Many of these same concepts and workflow tools were being used in a collaboration portal known as the Federated Development and Certification Environment, begun about two years ago as part of DISA’s Net-Enabled Command Capability program.
What makes Forge.mil more promising, however, beyond providing a richer collaboration environment, is the ability developers will soon have to test software enhancements on Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE) computers. RACE, developed by DISA’s computing services division, will give developers on-demand access to a large number of live machines with a defense enterprise computing center to test their work.
Little wonder then that as of last month more than 770 users had already registered on Forge.mil, working on about 35 projects, said Rob Vietmeyer, Forge.mil project director. And the number of users is growing exponentially, he said.
To be sure, a host of other factors, ranging from acquisition complexities to cultural inertia, still present great challenges in speeding the delivery of new technologies to warfighters. But Forge.mil holds great promise in aiding the cause.
Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of Defense Systems from January 2009 to August 2010. He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.