The agency is launching development and testing tools that should make it easier for military developers to test and deploy software themselves without the red tape.
The site is catching on quickly, with 1,300 DoD developers signed up and 60 development efforts under way in just three months of beta testing, including everything from system utilities to embedded systems on unmanned aerial vehicles. Next up is a classified and proprietary code version of the site called ProjectForge, and sites called TestForge and CertificationForge that will help -- through automation and repositories -- test and certify software developed on Forge.mil to make sure meets required DoD specs.
Once the testing environment is up, DISA hopes to move onto full, self-service, production software deployment functionality by the summer of 2010, depending on the evolution of partnerships DISA has under way with agencies and vendors to make that happen. Forge.mil may also find a home as enabler of other private cloud efforts under way by the Air Force, Navy, and Army.
RACE won't just be for Amazon-style software development and deployment. It's already running instances of RightNow's CRM software, and DISA has noted the possibility of its use to deliver virtual desktops.
Harry Sienkiewicz, RACE's program director, sees his team as a hosting company and service provider inside the Department of Defense, as DISA itself is in some ways as well. "We would really like to have abilities much like a Rackspace or a 1&1 to allow users to provision an environment when, where and how they need it," he said in an interview. "We want to be like the ISP or hosting company behind the scenes."
Already, RACE allows self-service provisioning of approved Windows Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux applications, like Exchange servers or Apache Web servers. Though applications won't come online immediately for now, anyone with a Common Access Card (a form of military identification and authentication) can request computing resources and can pay online if they have a government-issued credit card. "You just enter the portal, say you want this type of environment, this type of server, this type of security," Sienkiewicz said.
However, paying for rented space on RACE isn't as granular as doing so on Amazon Web Services, and the private cloud isn't yet multitenant, though it is possible DISA will eventually move in that direction if the technology gets better. Instead of paying for traffic, storage and CPU usage separately, RACE developers pay $500 per month for a virtual machine that includes 1 GB of memory and comes with 50 GB of storage. More storage per image will be available by May or June, and DISA is looking at ways to make costs look more like they do on Amazon and elsewhere online.
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