A consortium backed by the Department of Defense (DoD) is pushing for open standards to improve its IT and communications and is tapping 28 major companies including EMC Corp and Lockheed Martin to spearhead the effort.
The Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC), launched this week, will provide input on standards and architectural approaches that systems developers should follow to get a slice of the DoD's ever-expanding budget for improving its IT infrastructure. Industry watchers note that the DoD was instrumental in the push for open systems in the early 90's and has a lot of sway in IT circles.
However, it's no secret that the DoD's own IT systems lag way behind what's available in the commercial world. They are encumbered with internal rules and federal acquisition regulations that slow down the process for rolling out new systems. "It involves a tremendous amount of bureaucracy," said Steve James, director of business development for defense intelligence at EMC. "The consortium should circumvent this process."
Founding members of the group include: BAE Systems, Boeing, CACI International Inc., Carrillo Business Technologies Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., EADS, EMC Corp., Ericsson, Factiva -- a Dow Jones and Reuters Company, Finmeccanica, General Dynamics Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Honeywell, IBM, Innerwall, L-3 Communications Corp. (Integrated Systems), Lockheed Martin Corp, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman Corp., Oracle Corp., Raytheon Co., Rockwell Collins Inc., SAAB, SAIC, Smiths Aerospace, Sun Microsystems, Thales and Themis, with The Open Group acting as the management company.
During a conference call Tuesday, former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology Dr. Paul Kaminski, chairman of the NCOIC Advisory Council, gave an example of a marine unit being unable to pass information to an infantry unit because they use different communication systems. "The importance of this consortium lies in its ability to provide a unified approach that integrates everything through the last mile," he said. "We've seen the power of the network grow by quantum leaps in the last decade, but we've been impeded by the lack of a common approach that enables our systems to network together as one."
James said the consortium aims to improve the DoD's IT systems that support its military operations by "using best practices from other industries and whatever tweaking is necessary." He gave the example of a command and control unit tracking a sports utility vehicle that appears to be escaping from a combat zone. "Is it a father with a family of five or is it a member of al-Qaida -- is it a legitimate target?" He said the army's ability to establish this information and send it to the appropriate command centers is relatively immature today.
One of the goals on the storage side is to give this unit the capability to send live video streams, in combination with XML, to a system that will archive and index the data with a policy to push it to a desk with a particular responsibility. And of course, EMC ties this back to information lifecycle management (ILM). "It's an ILM approach where the information and its storage requirements are changing relative to its value," James said. Uniform databases across the military, and a way to data mine them in a collaborative fashion, is also high on the agenda.
Right now, the DoD has SAN deployments in its administration departments for e-mail and file and print, but not in operations. This department is interested in constructing a SAN that could be shared with allies across the world. "It would need zones of collaboration, as part of the intellectual property would be protected behind certain zones that no one else would have access to," James said. The DoD is also interested in how to move critical data out of harm's way if a primary data center gets wiped out.
Annual membership to the consortium is open to all interested parties, foreign and domestic, and is available in three tiers. First tier membership, which EMC has, costs $150,000, second tier membership is $75,000 and third tier membership is on a sliding scale of $5,000 to $20,000 depending on the size of the company. Organizations can also commit full-time personnel to the consortium. EMC plans to have three to five people on this job.