Science and Technology News

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

DISA Highlights Increase in Use of Collaboration Tool

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2013 – Use of a Web-based application designed to offer an information exchange environment for Defense Department users has grown markedly as defense spending cuts loom, Defense Information Systems Agency officials said.

Since 2007, Defense Connect Online has been the “go-to” mechanism among several new enterprises within DOD’s networks that entrust remote services with a user's data and software through cloud computing.
Defense Connect Online is the designated enterprise tool allowing DOD partners to collaborate on either classified or unclassified networks, said Alfred Rivera, DISA’s director of enterprise services.

“It’s been the department’s way of providing collaborative solutions … for online meetings, document sharing, white-boarding and voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) capabilities, to include chat,” Rivera said.
John Hale, DISA’s chief of enterprise applications, said DCO is the Web-based solution fielded within DOD’s private cloud so information can be exchanged among mission partners. “It really has been a facilitator of collaboration, … including the ability to chat live with each other while you’re doing it,” he said. DCO users should note common access card requirements, with the option for non-CAC holder guest participation, Hale said.

As DOD faces an austere budget climate, DISA officials said, DCO and similar enterprise ventures have shown growth by virtue of cost savings. “We’re starting to see a large increase in the use of Defense Connect Online, and in the last 60 to 90 days, there’s been unprecedented growth,” Hale said.

DISA officials continue to address technology solutions to meet increasing customer demands, Hale said, adding that programmers took necessary steps to ensure data security both at rest and at use within the system.

“The solution was built … with security in mind, [and] that’s one reason it leverages our current DOD private cloud as its native platform, … because a certain amount of security comes with that environment,” Hale said. “As [information technology] increases in complexity and users demand more and more instant capabilities, security is … at the forefront of everything we do to ensure our nation’s defense information is kept safe.”

A maximum capacity of 2,000 users in 2007 has since increased to 4,000 concurrent users, Hale noted, but recent demands have accelerated capacity expansion.

“Under normal circumstances, that would be a good model; however, DCO capacity requirements have significantly increased by 33 percent during the last 60 to 90 days,” he said.

To address the increased demand, DISA officials expedited a previously planned expansion project, and will double current capacity within the week.

“We will make several system upgrades within six to eight weeks which will allow us to add additional capacity beyond 8,000 in a streamlined fashion, as dictated by mission partner usage,” Hale said.

Rivera said Defense Connect Online was DISA’s first large endeavor as part of the agency’s emergence into enterprise services. Another is enterprise email service. The Army was the first adopter of DOD Enterprise Email (DEE), said Alan Lewis, DISA’s program executive officer for enterprise services.

“We currently have over 800,000 users on that system and are growing rapidly,” Lewis said. “In the next two months, we’ll have 1.5 million users on that system.” Users include members of the Army, the Joint Staff and various combatant commands, among other military agencies, Lewis added.

DISA is the main service provider of high-end applications to DOD, its senior leaders said.

“What you’re seeing is large growth across the board in terms of the service offerings from DISA to the entire department,” Lewis said, noting plans to integrate mobile capabilities into all platforms.

Rivera said collaboration with the Army to determine whether or not the ventures were fiscally sound were worthwhile. “The results indicated that the Army would save around $74 million annually when moving to DEE versus them doing it themselves,” Rivera said.

With an expected 1.4 million Army users taking advantage of DEE, other enterprise services such as the DOD Enterprise Portal Service and DCO consolidate common usage applications into large-scale platforms to bring cost savings to taxpayers, Hale said.

“Every organization is trying to save as much as possible to meet their mission needs,” Hale said. “By offsetting the cost for these common services that everybody expects [and] using enterprise services, it allows organizations to focus their dollars back into their mission.”

Rivera expressed confidence that Defense Connect Online and similar enterprises will weather the fiscal storm.

“It is one of those efficiency applications that the department can recognize as we look at … strong budget cuts going on,” he said. “This is one of our key enterprise applications that will continue to be a critical element as we move forward in this budget-constrained environment.”

Rivera said he expects mission partners to use the enterprise not only for meetings, but also for operational discussions, distance learning and other capabilities.

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