Defense IT

DISA storage contract stresses interoperability

The Defense Information Systems Agency has released additional details about its planned follow-on enterprise storage contract that stress a growing shift in DOD toward interoperability and decentralized networks.

DISA’s Enterprise Storage Solution (ESS) II program is designed to provide “on-demand” storage capabilities tied to a specific computer chipset architecture. A DISA solicitation for the ESS II contract released on Sept. 19 did not specify the chipset architecture.

However, background information on the ESS II solicitation stressed that DISA will use the storage contract to improve “information interoperability” as it pursues its framework  Joint Information Environment (JIE) designed to create standards for security, cloud computing and enterprise services. “DISA’s vision calls for a move from the centralized thinking and planning [to an] edge-centered” approach, the agency declared.

DISA called the storage acquisition plan a “fundamental paradigm shift from providing platform-centric applications to platform-independent, web-enabled services requiring the support of a diverse storage environment.” Network security remains among the highest priorities for ESS II along with reliability, the agency stressed.

Indeed, senior DOD officials have been emphasizing a move away from centralized systems to what Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently called “decentralized execution at the edge” of networks. Winnefeld said troops should be able to operate at the network edge using any mobile device.

“We still build platforms the old-fashioned way, but the things that ‘ride’ on them, including and especially IT, have to be super-agile,” Winnefeld added. “It’ll eventually be a matter of meeting the standard and then plugging the hardware and software into a secure network to meet our warfighter needs.”

In promoting JIE, DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins also has stressed the need for “rapid and safe data sharing.”

DISA’s solicitation said it would move away from its current “Task, Process, Exploit, Disseminate” model to an edge-centered “Task, Post, Process, Use” approach to interoperability.

The $427 million ESS II contract will run for four years and include two 1-year options. Responses to the DISA  solicitation are due on Oct. 21.

The agency awarded Vion Corp. a $700 million contract in January 2007 to provide enterprise storage services at 17 U.S. data centers. It recently decided to re-compete the storage contract as ESS II.

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