The Future of the Joint Information Environment (JIE)…

Stephanie Headshot 65x85by Stephanie Meloni, Senior Analyst

Last week DISA and key Army leaders convened with industry at an AFCEA DC luncheon to weigh-in on the Army’s future IT priorities, address the current status of some of their larger efforts, and discuss available funding. Of course, JIE was weighing heavy on everyone’s mind; the Air Force, Army, and DISA continue to be committed to partnering together, implementing projects for shared architectures and services.

Here are key projects all three agencies are working on:

Joint Regional Security Stacks

Coming together puzzleSince announcing the plan about a year ago, DISA, the Army, and Air Force are working in partnership making relatively fast progress executing the Joint Regional Security Stack (JRSS) effort. The first JRSS achieved initial operating capability earlier this month at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA), which means that now the online traffic for Fort Sam Houston and Lackland Air Force Base flow through the same security stack. This JRSS is expected to be fully operational by winter.  The JRSS at JBSA has also allowed both services to increase network speed and capacity via the Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) routers.

The JRSS effort is a stepping stone to a shared joint security architecture, providing the Air Force and Army with a more defendable network. With the Joint Regional Security Stack effort well underway, the next efforts that the three partnered agencies are looking at are data hosting via the DISA Core Data Centers (CDCs) and Unified Capabilities.

Data/Application Hosting

For data center hosting, the plan is to move data out of Army and Air Force data centers and centralize it via DISA CDCs. The Army and Air Force have made some initial progress with data center closures, but are now focused on applications rationalization and are taking inventory of what applications are hosted where and figuring out a way forward for IPNs (Installation Processing Nodes), or local, installation-based data centers that would only host applications specific to bases. Other applications with a more general function can be moved to the CDCs. Both services must rationalize their applications before being able to move them over to DISA; this project will ultimately generate cost-saving opportunities in the long run as they‘re able to eliminate redundant applications, but will take some time to implement.

Unified Capabilities

Unified Capabilities (UC), which would bring together a suite of services for voice-over-IP communications, video teleconferencing and messaging, is a project that seems to have a little more momentum behind it. The three organizations have released two RFIs to vet commercial solutions, and expect to release the RFP in early FY15.

Security Challenges

Security continues to be the main roadblock for both UC and data hosting. There are still many issues that need to be worked out — mostly related to the cloud and what applications can be hosted via commercial or private clouds. Air Force, Army and DISA are working with NSA to define standards and architecture for cloud vendors before they can progress further with sensitive and classified data.

Funding is the other major issue impacting future JIE efforts — dictating the speed of implementation for remaining JRSS efforts (you can expect delays with JRSS and MPLS installations and upgrades). For the time being, organizations plan to install MPLS routers at more than 100 locations within the next year. The next targeted locations for JRSS will be at Wiesbaden, Germany, followed by installation of two JRSS stacks in Southwest Asia.

For UC and data center hosting, implementation may be a bit slower as the government figures out its cloud and security issues. Security is one of DOD’s top priorities, so any decisions being made in this area are highly scrutinized (aka, it’s going to take a while!). COTS vendors will need to watch and wait — all three of these efforts offer plenty of opportunity for IT product purchases, but vendors need to be aware of the security risks and challenges these agencies are facing, and make sure that their products are meeting requirements. JIE solutions will need to offer the right mix of cybersecurity and cost savings to achieve success.

2 Responses to The Future of the Joint Information Environment (JIE)…

  1. MIke says:

    Application rationalization is everybody’s hot topic right now, but I have yet to see RFIs or RFPs for app rat. Andy ideas why that is?

    • Hello Mike- I haven’t seen anything either but I know that the govt. will be looking to industry to help with this part of data center consolidation. I suspect their trying to figure out cloud security is slowing down the entire process.

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