DISA 'private cloud' serves as personnel system

Air Force Personnel Center to shift applications to software-as-a-service model

The Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, has moved its personnel support applications to a “software-as-a-service” model hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency. DISA will host the Air Force's personnel customer service and self-service applications, from RightNow Technologies, at its Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECC), which RightNow will maintain in a similar fashion to its privately hosted SaaS offering.

The center's effort is the largest to use the DISA private cloud system for human resources management thus far, but it’s not the first, said Col. Glenn Rattell, director of Personnel Data Systems at AFPC. “The U.S. Army [human resources] system has already moved to the DISA platform -- in a very smaller scale than us,” he said. “But we were not the first service to do this. This is going to be a DOD-wide effort.”

The Air Force uses an on-site installation of RightNow Technologies' RightNow customer relationship management to handle a Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network-based, Web self-service system for airmen and civilian employees of the Air Force to manage personal information changes and other personnel office requests, and a call center application for agents at AFPC to assist with personnel office requests over the phone. “Those requests can be as simple as changing their duty title, all the way to when their time in service has come to an end, they can come into the site to retire or separate from our Air Force,” said Col. Bill Foote, director of personnel services at AFPC.

“What we did with our Web site operations was as we were trying to improve our business operations here, we looked to industry for a standard, and...hosted solutions are pretty common” in industry, Rattell said.

The new, DECC-based platform will allow RightNow to maintain the software centrally and upgrade the software quarterly as it does for its customers using its own private data center. The Air Force will be able to bring on additional licenses for customer service agents as required, instead of purchasing a block of licenses in advance.

The AFPC has been using RightNow for over seven years on-site, said Kevin Paschuck, vice president of Public Sector for RightNow. “They have nearly a thousand agent [licenses] to date, and they'll be growing that to well over 5,000 over the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.

The immediate benefits of switching from a local installation of RightNow to a DISA-hosted cloud version of the software, are twofold, Rattell said. “What (SaaS) does for us is it gives us a [continuity of operations] or a backup capability that we currently don't have -- if DISA hosts our Web site in Oklahoma City, and there's a problem in Oklahoma City, then our services would immediately fail over to St. Louis and they would always be available.” The second benefit, he said, was the approach “guaranteed us the latest and greatest technologies that RightNow has to offer. It'll allow us to take advantage of the latest versions of the system, to really provide better service to our airmen in the field as we push more of our operations to the Web.”

The RightNow partnership with DISA also means that the applications have already gone through Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process. “Traditionally, before DOD goes live with a system, they have to buy the hardware and get it accredited,” Paschuck said. “That could take anywhere from three to 12 months, depending on what level program it is. Once you do that, you've got to implement the software – usually a 12-month process -- and then have to go through another certification process of six to 12 months. With this model at DISA, it's a truly approved solution. You get a full license, it's fully accredited, and now that business problem is really getting solved in 90 days.”

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