Why The Hush Around DISA's Mobility Award? - InformationWeek

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Wyatt Kash
Wyatt Kash
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Why The Hush Around DISA's Mobility Award?

Defense Information Systems Agency's contract is already reshaping the playing field for federal mobile players. But the lack of program details is a disservice to the broader mobile market.

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DISA's recent $16 million mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application store (MAS) contract award to a team led by Digital Management Inc. was generally greeted as welcome news around the beltway and to the IT industry at large. After all, the award by the Defense Information Systems Agency signaled the first massive, programmatic embrace of mobile technology by the U.S. government. The award also was seen as a potential jolt for future large-scale mobile deployments in a number of large, regulated private sector industries where mobile security remains a big concern.

In what should be a shining moment for federal mobility, it is unfortunate, though not unexpected, that those companies not selected are now crying foul. What is more curious, however, is how guarded DISA and DMI are being in discussing the details of the program, given the interest in it and the fact that the usual protest period has now lapsed.

The stakes among the relatively few mobile vendors competing for this award could not be higher. That's because DISA will be the central purchasing, hosting and deployment arm for the Department of Defense and perhaps a proxy for all of U.S. government.

Notionally, DISA will also likely control all subsequent deployments of small-form-factor devices including smartphones, tablets, and special-purpose devices that require management and protection across all branches of the U.S. military.

[ Data wrangling problems? Read Education Dept. Praised For Data Collection Model. ]

To the relatively small group of mobile cognoscenti around the beltway, DISA represented a mobility Holy Grail. Winning this award, it was thought, would make or break companies, catapult careers, justify hiring decisions, cement reputations and unmask pretenders to the throne.

DISA's decision could also mean the end for incumbent NOC (Network Operation Center) players such as BlackBerry whose technology is widely regarded as antiquated and whose market share has dwindled to the single digits. Although to be fair, BlackBerry's BB 10 platform is piquing the interest of long-time government BlackBerry customers at a number of sizeable and significant agencies.

More ominously, NOC-dependent Good Technology received a virtual smack down by the DISA deal for similar reasons, including questions concerning scalability, extensibility and performance -- as well as where Good's code is written and hosted. Truth be told, Good has been knocking around the IT world in some form or another since the late 1990's and has been sold several times. Good's technology distinction has been marred by the company's penchant for suing competitors ranging from BlackBerry to Microsoft, Motorola, AirWatch, MobileIron, LRW, and the list goes on and on.

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User Rank: Author
8/20/2013 | 8:03:43 PM
re: Why The Hush Around DISA's Mobility Award?
We're getting a lot of comments offline on this story, including those who take issue with the comments on BlackBerry's eroding position. One writer notes that BlackBerry's most recent smartphones received authority to operate (ATO) on DoD networks, as the author does note above. We're interested in hearing more on what you're hearing.
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