DISA 2009: Enterprise Services

Operational Excellence for the Warfighter


The Defense Enterprise Services Environment

The dynamic nature of information technology and the promise and change inherent in Web 2.0, along with the next generation collection of tools on the Internet, have changed the way we work and live.  We interact in an “always on”, connected world, and today's technology enables us to engage with each other on the net virtually anywhere.   As we consider how DISA serves the DoD, it is obvious that we must enable collaboration and sharing in ways similar to the ways we work and live on the Internet, and we must do it securely.

As we consider the dynamic, asymmetric challenges faced by the United States today and into the future, we must consider our ability to support diverse operations from conventional to irregular war, humanitarian relief, and nation building.  These are not prescribed, set- piece engagements with predictable conditions and timing.  They are ad hoc and unpredictable.  DISA's role as the enterprise network, computing, and services provider for the DoD is basic to the Department's ability to react quickly and to effect the outcomes necessary to meet these challenges.  We have to create the conditions to enable successful mission accomplishment no matter what the mission may be.  We have to prepare for the next unpredictable circumstance.

The time to react to each challenge we face is short and getting shorter.  Whether it is a kinetic or cyber threat, a massive humanitarian relief effort, or a counterinsurgency, the services and capabilities we provide must meet the need.   Whether it is a naval response, the deployment of a brigade combat team, insertion of Special Forces, or a global strike mission, DISA's enterprise service environment must set the conditions for success.

The silos of information we have today, our application-centric systems, the treatment of circuits and servers separately, and the cultural barriers to true, rich information sharing are impediments to meeting the Defense Department's challenges.  Our thinking and planning for DISA's enterprise service environment are consumed by two issues - (1) how do we design and implement the capabilities and services we provide the Department  and (2) how do we break out from a “circuits and servers” mindset to actually create the conditions for success on any DoD mission?

DISA engineers and planners have visited and studied the best in the business at providing these services on the network.  We have focused on leading organizations that use a platform of network, computing, storage, and services to interact with customers.  Amazon, Sabre/Travelocity, FedEx, UPS, Bechtel, Salesforce.com, Google, the telecommunication carriers, and other large and small IT companies that thrive on innovation are proving that platform and cloud-based services are viable today and into the future.  They allow user flexibility and agility, virtually unlimited collaboration and sharing, and promotion of innovation at the edge.  They face challenges and opportunities very similar to DISA's, differing only in purpose and scale.  But, the principles are the same.  So, DISA learns from and shares with them.

Many, including Nicholas Carr in his book The Big Switch, have written about IT infrastructure being a wall jack away such that innovators can work on functionality and not have to worry about the behind-the-glass enabling layers.  The consumer IT industry assumes the Internet.  It does not worry about the infrastructure that the handheld IT device will operate on or in.  This concept means that engineers and innovators concentrate on the functionality and power of what is in the hands of the user, not what is on the other side of the wall plate.  This singular focus on functionality that empowers the user is a noble goal for the Defense enterprise.

DISA has embraced the philosophy of providing computing as a service on the network and has begun to lay the foundation for a unified services environment for information sharing.  This environment will be an interoperable platform of networks, computing, storage, and services accessible by users globally.  It will provide the attributes of a cloud with certified and accredited computing environments against which web services can be provisioned rapidly and in which applications can be hosted on standard computing infrastructure.  It will provide scalable, on-demand processing power and storage as services to promote and support information sharing at all levels.

What are the piece parts that make up this environment?   The first is the network, the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN).  As the network evolves, it will be based on the goals of eliminating bandwidth as a constraint for information sharing, fundamental diversity for dependability, bringing the command and control and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) infrastructures into closer alignment, migration to converged IP, and ease of access to information and services in the core for deployed forces globally.

The second is the set of Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs) - world class, professionally managed data centers, which are designed from the outset for assured service.  Within the DECCs, we have established contracts to provide processing and storage capacity-on-demand that is paid for as a utility.  We are able to scale rapidly, and scale back as well, and only pay for the capacity we consume as do our customers.   This innovative business strategy sets the stage for warfighter agility and flexibility because it provides the fundamental infrastructure scalability needed for agile computing delivered as services on the network.

The third part of the environment consists of the enterprise services that will reside on the platform to facilitate information sharing securely.  These services will be constructed to provide the capabilities needed at the edge first.  They will grow in richness as use moves toward the core of the enterprise where there is easier access to network capacity.  Many of the services produced by the Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) are fundamental components of this platform.

The platform will achieve efficiency and economy through a common management structure, a common service delivery structure, and a common operational structure supported by common tools, common software, and common processes.

One of the first initiatives of the Defense platform or cloud is Rapid Access Computing Environment, also known as RACE, a DISA service that allows DoD users to go through a Web-based portal and provision their own operating environments on the DoD architecture.  RACE is enabled by the capacity-on-demand processing and storage capabilities.  It is also enabled by the certified and accredited infrastructure in the DECCs and the DISN. RACE delivers on the promise of speed and ease of use.  It also streamlines business processes.   A user on the network can provision and pay a RACE instantiation with a Defense credit card or electronic fund transfer - in minutes.    Before RACE, provisioning an application or web service used to take months. DISA's planners and engineers learned from the private sector, worked with our capacity-on-demand industry partners, and used our capacity service contracts to deliver this essential step in creating a next generation enterprise services environment. 

RACE is in its early stages and is currently open only to developers and testers.  It will eventually be open to all DoD users who need a computing environment for operations, test, and development.  Today, this is a working, low risk, secure solution for developers and testers of web services and applications.

Another initiative, Forge.mil, is aimed at test and development environment requirements.   Forge.mil is a DISA-led collaborative activity designed to improve the ability of the DoD to rapidly deliver dependable software, services and systems in support of net-centric operations and warfare. This platform enables collaboration in design. DISA provides the core platform that promotes early and continuous collaboration and information sharing among all stakeholders.
Forge.mil has three components - SoftwareForge.mil, ProjectForge.mil, and CertificationForge.mil.  DISA began the Forge.mil effort in October 2008 and the first capability, SoftwareForge.mil, is now available for limited, unclassified use.  It provides an open source test and development environment in a government data center that developers and testers can use instead of building and using their own labs and testing facilities.  It is on line, and it is free. 

ProjectForge.mil will be an instantiation of SoftwareForge.mil dedicated to support a particular project, (e.g., development of a program) and it will be a fee-for-service offering.  Certification.Forge.mil will be an open source environment in which certification and peer review can be done.  They will both ride on the RACE platform and can be used as needed and turned off when not needed. 

The guiding principles underlying the Forge.mil concept are these:

*Enable cross-program sharing of software, system components, and services

*Promote early and continuous collaboration among all stakeholder (e.g., developers, material providers, testers, operators, and users) throughout the development life-cycle

*Rapidly deliver effective and efficient development and test capabilities for DoD technology development efforts

*Protect the operational environment from potentially harmful systems and services

*Encourage modularity so that large programs are developed, fielded, and operated as a set of independent components that can evolve and mature at their own rates


As we maintain our focus on improving the ways DISA supports the DoD, we will continue to dedicate our intellectual capital and our resources to innovation in enhancing DISA enterprise services.  We understand that the Department's environment has changed and will continue to change.  We are fighting an asymmetric global war with information tools not even thought of five years ago.  Agility has to be a way of life.  We must innovate to match and exceed our enemies' capabilities and to ensure that those at the “point of the spear” have the very best capabilities to share information and make decisions inside the enemies' decision cycle.  And we will continue to rely on our teammates - the Military Services, Defense Agencies, and industry partners -  as we work together to support our warfighters.