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U.S. Defense Dept. Information Systems CIO Opens Up On Shared IT

DISA CIO John Garing reveals much about how his team coordinates procurement, collaboration, and cloud computing within the often competing military branches.

John Garing, ic Planning
John Garing
DISA Chief Information Officer and Director, Strategic Planning

InformationWeek: What are you doing to make sure you are able to carry out this mission without these other agencies going off and doing stuff on their own?

Garing: More and more the four military services are bringing things they traditionally did themselves into our data centers. I think there are probably five reasons.

The first is that the DoD network is a world-class carrier grade network, it's state of the art, and if not the best, among the best.

Second is the innovation in our engineering shop, our chief technology officer shop. We can talk about RACE [DISA's private cloud], and we can talk about Forge [an open source repository]. That innovation is drawing people into our data centers because they can take advantage of it. Just think about the capacity on demand, data processing, and storage we offer now where you can turn it on and turn it off like a utility and pay for it like a utility, and it is not buying a server for a million bucks and only using 10% of it, and then having the rest sit idle and having to depreciate that.

The third thing is financial transparency. We've made sure to make sure our costs are transparent and customers can see them and know what they're paying for, and if they don't like it, they can argue with us and negotiate.

The fourth is governance. The network infrastructure, the core that provides these 389 service delivery nodes and the interconnecting trunking, is governed by a council that looks at investments, execution, and all our network people have to go present what they're going to invest in, what they're not going to invest in, and get the military services and agencies on the council to say yes or no.

The final thing is market pressure. People coming into the department from the private will say that one thing that is lacking is market pressure, and that is to say, you're not creating in a department that's modified by P&L and where the market's going, but in my view, in the last two years or so, there has been market pressure. As the military services have to refit and modernize because of the war, they're choosing not to do things they don't have to, and building brick and mortar data centers is no longer something you want to do.

InformationWeek: One of the things I want to ask about is Forge. What does it bring to DISA and the DoD?

Garing: It's an open source development environment. If you just want to go in and collaborate as a developer or tester, we provide that environment. There are a thousand registered users today and 65 or so concurrent activities going on in that environment. This started on the Oct. 1, so this is rather good growth. The next phase is Project Forge, which is the same thing, but for a program or community of interest that doesn't want to go open source but wants to retain it in its own community.

We will do this in our own data centers, using our capacity-on-demand service. What that means is you don't have to build your own T&D lab. What do you do with a T&D lab? Well, when you're finished with it, you define another use or it goes obsolete and you have to replace it, now you don't have to do that anymore, because tech refresh is built into these capacity-on-demand contracts. The next iteration is certification Forge, or something where you can actually get your certification and accreditation. It gets the certification done for a system that's going to ride on the network.

You can just think about the almost limitless potential this brings to the department.

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