Operational Excellence for the Warfighter

Enabling Information Sharing

The world is experiencing an unquenchable thirst for collaboration and information sharing enabled by the tools known collectively as Web 2.0.  This shift toward collaboration and common information-sharing services has resulted in DoD changing the way it does business, as well as the way it provides services on the network at the enterprise level.  Enterprise services provide the means by which warfighters, senior leadership, combat support, and business communities collaborate and share information securely on the Department's network.  As they evolve, they will permit everyone on the network to collaborate and share, and they will be able to be reused across multiple programs, projects, and initiatives.

DISA is creating a unified environment for information sharing - an interoperable platform of networks, computing, and services accessible by users globally.  It will incorporate certified and accredited cloud computing environments against which web services can be provisioned rapidly and in which applications can be hosted on standard computing infrastructure.  It will provide secure, scalable, on-demand processing power and storage as services to promote and support information sharing at all levels.  The components of the platform will be based on the principles and goals of eliminating hard constraints for bandwidth, processing, and storage. 

Using enterprise services as enablers, then, DISA and its Service partners are moving DoD towards an enterprise network-centric information sharing environment that rides on a Web-based single platform on both the NIPRNet (Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network) and SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) without compromising authentication, confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Enterprise Services 101
An enterprise service is a technical or business capability or service using information technology and communications available on the DoD network for common use by everyone on the Defense Department's networks.  A Defense enterprise service satisfies a common need while promoting strategic behavior that DoD wants to encourage. It fosters information sharing.  It meets user requirements that can't be provided in some other manner.  It complies with appropriate standards.  And, it is cost effective and affordable.

The Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) program has been the foundational first step. It provides users access to collaborative information-sharing capabilities and services independent of geographic location.   NCES services enable collaboration among DoD components, federal organizations, and coalition and industry partners on both a planned and ad-hoc basis.  The program is intended to provide the foundation to enable sharing the right information with the right person at the right time in the areas of warfighting, intelligence, and business.  NCES provides Defense Connect Online, GIG Content Delivery Service, Defense Knowledge Online, and Intellipedia. 


*DoD enterprise collaboration: Enables Web-based synchronous and asynchronous communication: desktop and application sharing, instant messaging, and whiteboard sessions.

*Content discovery and delivery: Provides a standard Web search engine capability similar to Google, Yahoo, and other commercial search capabilities.

* Service-Oriented Architecture Foundation (SOAF): Provides DoD with foundational software for seamless interoperable computing through a federated searching capability. SOAF provides the core infrastructure that supports information discovery, data and application interoperability, secure collaboration, and an assessment of service and data utilization.

* Defense online portal:  Enables personalized, user-defined, Web-based secure access to various enterprise services, such as retrieval and posting of information, collaboration tools, and workgroups. It serves as a  gateway to the services, applications, and content located on DoD's enterprise portal, Defense Knowledge Online (DKO).

NCES delivers these foundational services through four product lines which provide an enterprise services framework and support information sharing. These are DoD enterprise collaboration, content discovery and delivery, enterprise service-oriented architecture foundation (SOAF), and DKO, the defense online portal.  These product lines serve as building blocks for other product lines or provide direct user services.

Enterprise Services - The Living Network
Rebecca Harris, program director for GIG enterprise services at DISA, refers to enterprise services as the “living network.” This is because the information and capabilities associated with enterprise services are always growing and shifting based on user needs and user feedback.  User requirements drive the type of capabilities and services that are made available on the network; it's about connecting people across the network. The goal is the best possible end-user experience.

Ms. Harris uses the analogy of the human circulatory system to explain her point regarding the “living network.” The various enablers or capabilities and services provided by NCES are the heart.  The data that moves across the network is like the circulating blood.  Together, they support the healthy functioning of the network.  

The SOAF is an especially important component of the living network because it provides a seamless integration of processes and applications. For example, it can enable an application to be used at the enterprise or organization-wide level as opposed to limiting its usefulness to supporting only a given program, an individual project, or a single business area of an organization. SOAF is modeled after commercial online travel sites that provide access to various types of information all on one site.

The Next Step - Enterprise E-mail
The concept of enterprise services reaches far beyond the foundational first steps provided by NCES.   A good case in point is enterprise e mail.  As enterprise services transform the DoD by providing building blocks of collaboration, the next logical step is enterprise e mail.  The Department is going to provide e mail as an enterprise service, initially collapsing our Microsoft footprint to become more
efficient, with DISA as the service provider.  This first step is consolidating our existing Exchange infrastructure.  This is being done to gain efficiencies within the boundaries the Department's licensing agreements.   This will establish the foundation for providing mail as an enterprise service.

The Identity Component
A key element of this enterprise mail service is the directory.  Currently, each of the Services and other DoD organizations has an internal directory for contact information with each directory accessible only by the Service's or Agency's personnel.  A foundation of enterprise mail will be a common directory for the total Defense Department. DoD personnel will not only be able to find and access one another's contact information, but they will be able to connect to one another with ease due to the foundational capabilities provided by enterprise services.

Ms. Harris describes it like this, “It's like your global identity - wherever you are you can connect to the network and get the services that you need. First we provide it through what we call people discovery, or white pages.  Today if I'm in the Army and I wanted to find an email address or phone number for someone in the Navy, I can't readily do that. By going to the people discovery capability, I can look that person up, get that information, and then make contact.” 

DISA is currently using a capability called the Joint Enterprise Directory Service (JEDS) to make this enterprise email a reality.  JEDS will be the storehouse for the global identities of DoD personnel, with attributes denoted for each person.  JEDS will also leverage attribute-based access control.  It will enable precise, controlled user access to specific data fields and elements, and it will also support user access to large enterprise services, such as enterprise mail.  JEDS is a harvester; in that it takes data from directories, such as the directory of the Department of the Navy, and then correlates it with information in other directories, allowing identification and correction of any inaccuracies.  Through JEDS, capabilities to support enterprise mail are available today on the NIPRNet and SIPRNet, though the current operational availability only allows us to provide the mail capability and support to a limited subset of users.

What It's All About
Enterprise services improve the Department's ability to share information and collaborate on demand.  What we have learned in providing enterprise services is that we must first focus what is needed at the edge, the environment in which the warfighter works every day.  The term “DIL” for disadvantaged, intermittent, low bandwidth users describes the edge where low bandwidth
is prevalent and where units often operate disconnected from the ‘network’.   When edge users reconnect to the ‘network’, they must be able to synchronize as though they had never been disconnected.  The warfighters' needs are paramount.  Having satisfied them, we can then enrich the features of the service as we move toward the core of the Department where bandwidth and capacity are not major issues.

Enterprise services go beyond those delivered by the NCES program which provides the foundational services and capabilities.  More services will be provided as part of the infrastructure platform, or cloud to enable the Department to deliver bandwidth, processing, storage, and a wide range of powerful new services to support the warfighter.