Snapshot Mobile Warrior

DOD builds on convergence of virtualization, mobile

The intersection of virtualization, cloud and mobility promises to give military personnel the long-sought ability to securely access and share information anywhere, anytime and across any device to achieve mission objectives.

In fact, the convergence paves the way for what is being described as the “mobile cloud, ” which harnesses the unlimited computing resources of the cloud to free mobile devices from memory, processing and battery constraints. The aim is to provide better synchronization of data on a reliable and scalable platform where applications can be accessed anywhere and anytime.

“Cloud and mobile are two tightly linked forces, with the cloud becoming the major delivery vehicle and ‘remote brain’ for these devices, ” according to a Gartner report on the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2014. Virtualization, though, is the technology that helped pave the way to the cloud, allowing agencies to use software as a way to consolidate resources and IT management with the goal of offering services at a reduced cost.

Disruptive technologies such as virtualization, cloud and mobile are transforming how the Defense Department connects and supports workforce and warfighters. By nature DOD's workforce is mobile with forces deployed all over the world. Civilian and military personnel regularly rotate across organizations, leadership and field units are constantly on the move, and a growing number of teleworkers are beginning to operate from locations other than their primary offices, according to DOD's mobility strategy.

The Defense Information Systems Agency has been charged with making DOD's mobile vision a reality through the DOD Mobility Program. Its main mission is to research and evaluate mobile solutions that the entire DOD as well as other federal agencies can use. A year ago, DOD issued its Commercial Mobile Implementation Plan permitting the use of secure classified and protected unclassified mobile solutions that use commercial off-the-shelf products.

The DOD workforce is already becoming increasingly empowered by the use of mobile applications, tablets and smartphones, according to officials. For example, the Army has added Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphones to its Nett Warrior system, giving soldiers a chest-mounted device for situational awareness. The devices were first wiped clean and installed with Nett Warrior software, which includes a National Security Agency-approved version of the Android OS and a software package developed in-house by the Army.

Whatever device mobile workers are using—laptops, tablets or smartphones—information is always best when it can be presented natively on the device, said David Johnson, principal analyst with Forrester Research. With so many people using non-Microsoft and non-Windows mobile devices, there has to be a way for all of the Windows applications government agencies have been building over the years to work on mobile devices. “That is what the virtualization angle is all about,” Johnson said.

Virtualization allows multiple operating systems and applications to run on a single physical server, reducing operational costs and improving flexibility within an existing information technology infrastructure. As such, it has been critical in the development of scalable environments capable of managing large workloads and more users.

Application and desktop virtualization are two ways agencies can deliver information to mobile users. In the first scenario, an application is virtualized at the data center and delivered via portal or end point to the device. With the latter situation, the desktop is stored and virtualized at the data center and delivered to the mobile endpoint.

A virtual desktop infrastructure is an effective solution from a cost and security perspective, but also comes with related migration and management challenges. It is best to evaluate a variety of alternative models to ensure the final solution meets current and evolving agency needs, according to industry experts.

The advantage of virtualization

Virtualization allows multiple operating systems and applications to run on a single physical server, reducing operational costs and improving flexibility within an existing information technology infrastructure. As such, it has been critical in the development of scalable environments capable of managing large workloads and more users.

Application and desktop virtualization are two ways agencies can deliver information to mobile users. In the first scenario, an application is virtualized at the data center and delivered via portal or end point to the device. With the later situation, the desktop is stored and virtualized at the data center and delivered to the mobile endpoint.

A virtual desktop infrastructure is an effective solution from a cost and security perspective, but also comes with related migration and management challenges. It is best to evaluate a variety of alternative models to ensure the final solution meets current and evolving agency needs, according to industry experts.