Enterprise Services to Warfighting

Always On - Preparing for the Next Engagement
Enterprise Services to Warfighting

By Warren Suss

The 21st century is the information era. The buzzwords of the 20th century – net-centricity, collaboration, mobile workforce, information sharing – have become the realities of the 21st century. In this new era, our military forces find themselves in an operational environment that is unpredictable, complex, and rapidly changing. Our military forces are more than ever dependent on information in order to be successful as they respond to the full range of military operations.

As DISA looks into the future, it must find the ways and means to dynamically provide information sharing to enable joint and coalition warfighting with our global mission partners. To meet the demands across the full range of military operations requires a global, protected enterprise infrastructure. It must underlie every mission in the DOD. It must account for the “unanticipated user” and leverage information wherever it exists – in the DOD, interagency, coalition, and non-governmental environments.

The need for this enterprise infrastructure to support the warfighter is driven by two sets of imperatives: the operational imperatives and the efficiency imperatives.

Operationally, the enterprise infrastructure must enable the United States to respond to a full range of operations that are complex, unpredictable, and multifaceted. It must provide the agility for warfighters to connect, identify themselves, discover and share information, collaborate as necessary, all within a protected environment. The enterprise infrastructure must support the rapid deployment of applications and services on-demand, and enable the warfighter and other users to self-provision safely and quickly on a protected platform. It must support the operational agility, rapid response, and global requirements of today’s warfighters.

In terms of efficiency, the enterprise infrastructure must provide low cost of entry and low cost of operation through a stable platform supported by an agile business model. The enterprise infrastructure has to provide commonly used services and capabilities so that the military services and other users don’t have to provide their own. It must also allow rapid change and deliver highly scalable, on-demand services quickly, but free of unnecessary bureaucratic practices. The enterprise infrastructure ought to allow users to apply operating rather than investment dollars and online payment in the same manner as we do at home. It is also necessary that the infrastructure be based on self-provisioning, with very few people and few processes between the users and the users’ needs. And it must employ those emerging spectrum technologies that benefit DOD’s ability to access the electromagnetic spectrum globally for end-to-end wireless connectivity.

What is the Enterprise Infrastructure?
The enterprise infrastructure is an integrated platform – the network, computing environment, services, and information assurance.  It is based on standards and common approaches to enable information sharing and a collaborative environment for warfighters and enterprise users. It will comprise a seamless blend of communications, computing services, and information assurance that is focused on Internet Protocol (IP) and standard computing platforms. The enterprise infrastructure will be characterized by the self-provisioning of on-demand capabilities and services and will be designed to recognize the user’s capabilities and limitations.

The network component is characterized by unified communications and everything over IP, or EoIP. The movement from dedicated circuits to IP brings versatility never before experienced, with IP as an equalizer. Converged voice, video, and data services on the network will complement other enterprise services that promote information sharing and collaboration on demand.

Enterprise computing centers will offer infrastructure, software, and platform services. Tools and services to construct applications will be remotely accessible in the enterprise computing centers so that developers will have an easier time deploying and so end users see higher performance and reliability. Software will be developed and tested safely in one computing zone, and then it will be moved into production zones – all automatically.

Enterprise services will improve information sharing and reduce the risk calculus in development, technology, implementation, and investment. They will be of two varieties:  those that users interact with directly and those that operate in the background or “behind the glass” to manage the cloud and allow machine-to-machine transactions much the same as we experience in using the Internet. They will reside in and operate on a computing infrastructure integrated with the network. Both the computing and network infrastructure will be protected by the mission assurance tools and techniques DISA is deploying today. They will be managed as a portfolio of small projects and not as a single large program. Each will have its own life cycle with its own deliverables on its own development cycle, providing much greater flexibility.

Today, DISA-provided enterprise services are enabling enhanced and/or expanded capabilities via the enterprise infrastructure.

Among them is the Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE), which is DISA’s on-demand elastic computing environment. DOD users can self-provision over the network using as much server computing as an effort requires without having to own anything. DISA provides the computing, storage, and access to the network. There are prebuilt Windows and Linux server environments configured to DOD security standards and accredited. Users then deploy their own software, including commercial software, onto RACE. When users need more capacity, they self-provision that too. When a user is done with capacity, for instance at the completion of a test, they can simply turn it off and stop paying. Today, programs and projects can get started fast; they don’t need to wait for the acquisition, delivery, and configuration of servers and storage; they just use RACE, over the network from wherever they are in the world.

DISA has adopted the same agile and collaborative development approaches that are serving as engines of innovation on the Internet. DISA’s Forge.mil was developed in the same way that the open-source community created an entirely new industry and produced game-changing capabilities, such as the Linux operating system. Forge.mil lays the foundation for on-demand, agile software development by providing a transparent, accelerated DOD-wide software development environment that enables continuous collaboration among DOD software developers, testers, certifiers, operators, and users. It allows the sharing of best practices and software components and access to development tools/services, saving money, improving software development efficiency, and driving collaboration that helps deliver better software faster to the warfighter. In one year of operation, Forge.mil already has more than 4,000 registered users on 170 hosted projects and has more than 500 software releases available for download.

ProjectForge, which was released in January 2010, is the newest offering in DISA’s family of Forge.mil services, and it expands the initial SoftwareForge capabilities in hosting public projects for software reuse and collaborative development. The Forge.mil family will ultimately comprise five components. In addition to SoftwareForge and ProjectForge, the other components are CertificationForge, which will support agile certification; StandardsForge, which will drive collaborative standards development; and TestForge to provide on-demand, software-testing tools.

Forge.mil is among the Exellence.Gov Awards “Top 20” for 2010 and is a finalist for the Excellence.Gov Award. In 2009, Forge.mil won Information Week’s Government Innovators Award and Government Computer News’ Great dot-gov Web sites award.

RACE and Forge.mil will be used by the Army to support their upcoming “Apps for the Army,” which is a Web and mobile application development competition for active duty Army, National Guard and Army civilians. It will be a test case for agile and collaborative development. Through RACE, DISA will provide standardized Windows and Linux development platforms and mobile emulation software for SharePoint, ASP.Net, Android, and Blackberry applications. RACE is providing up to 100 virtual servers for the 90-day “Apps for the Army” contest, which will culminate with the winning applications being awarded at the LandWarNet Conference in August.

On-demand collaboration is a principal attribute of the enterprise infrastructure. Today, Defense Collaboration Online (DCO) and DISN Video Services-Global (DVS-G) are two services available on the network, the former for Web conferencing and chat and the latter for studio-based video conferencing. There are more than 300,000 registered users of DCO today, using over 22 million meeting minutes per month, and more than 120 video conferences per day on DVS-G. DCO was a key tool in the Haitian relief effort, and it has been integrated into command and control and daily operations of the DOD. DCO is also a finalist for the Excellence.Gov Award and is already ranked among the Excellence.Gov Awards “Top 20” for 2010. Toward the future, there will be an integrated collaboration service in the enterprise infrastructure as DISA plans and executes a Defense collaboration services strategy in the near future.

The Global Information Grid (GIG) Content Delivery Service (GCDS) today allows users to deliver and consume applications at the edge, saving bandwidth and increasing availability and performance. GCDS nodes are positioned globally, allowing a user to access applications and information without the effects of latency, poor connections, and disruptions. A great example is the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s use of GCDS to deliver and stage imagery in seconds over the network instead of burning map data on CDs that take 72 hours to deliver.

Because the DOD operates in a contested battlespace, mission assurance is a critical attribute of the enterprise infrastructure. DISA and its mission partners are embarked on a joint approach that will give warfighters and enterprise-service users mission dependability. The network, the computing infrastructure, and enterprise services will evolve to a joint mission assurance model that has common enterprise-scale perimeter defenses and will support a broad range of sharing policies from completely unclassified to highly classified information. Common approaches to identifying people, services, and other entities on the network, along with innovative approaches to access control, will be embedded in the infrastructure.

Recent Examples of Enterprise Capabilities Being Applied Today
A recent and relevant example is the challenge faced by the DOD in the support provided to Operation Unified Response for the disaster recovery and humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. Haiti experienced a catastrophic earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, which demanded an extraordinary world response to help the people and government of Haiti. The first need was to quickly share information and collaborate among partners that ranged from the U.S. military and other government agencies to other world governments, non-governmental organizations, and many private companies – none of which was anticipated on January 11th.  DISA and others worked together to respond quickly and flexibly with the tools available today, including non-classified information sharing and collaboration tools.  DISA also worked with its mission partners to meet network capacity needs, both terrestrial and satellite, as well as radio spectrum deconfliction requirements.  Leveraging the implementation of the Pacific Command’s All Partner’s Access Network (APAN) collaboration tool and DISA’s Defense Collaboration Online (DCO) services, DISA and others demonstrated the power of net-centric capabilities that support situational awareness, planning, and decision making.

Using the concept of the enterprise infrastructure, DISA partnered with the Air Force to implement a high-assurance Web services platform in the enterprise computing centers. This is a DISA-managed suite of common services and code runtime environments (JAVA and .Net). The services include a directory service, a meta-data environment, and a federated identity manager. When fully operational, the configuration baseline and associated governance model will permit the rapid development of code enabling Web services that are interoperable, discoverable, and secure. In the coming months, DISA and the Air Force plan to demonstrate the ability to deploy an array of Web-based applications faster and at less cost compared to traditional systems-development models.

DISA is also engaged with the Navy, working with the Naval Sea Systems Command to develop an Enterprise Portfolio Management (EPM) hosting philosophy. Eight new systems and three current systems will be part of the EPM family in a cloud-like environment in enterprise data centers. The EPM model will be rolled out to additional Navy commands by the end of 2010.

At the end of the day, the enterprise infrastructure must support and facilitate leaders’ abilities to have situational awareness, develop courses of action, and make decisions. In an environment characterized by uncertainty and complexity, DISA supports our mission partners by providing net-centric capabilities and services. Responding to simultaneous and persistent global threats, DISA is continually working to set the conditions for the next engagement. Innovation and existing programs have laid the foundation. Working with all of our mission partners DISA is now focused on the planning, technology, solutions, and business models necessary to bring the enterprise infrastructure to the next level.