Content Management Added To Iraq Military Portal

The U.S. military deploys Xythos Software's WebFile Server to improve the ability of soldiers stationed in Iraq to share information.
For the U.S. military and its allies stationed in Iraq, information plays a key role in battlefield decision making. To improve the military's ability to share information in Iraq, U.S. Joint Forces Command in this month integrated open, Web-based document- and file-management software into an existing collaboration portal known as the Cross Domain Collaborative Information Environment.

Before the deployment of Xythos Software's WebFile Server, the only way for personnel stationed in Iraq to share files outside their unit was to E-mail them or to copy the file to a Web server and make it accessible via a Web page, says Boyd Fletcher, prototype development lead engineer for Joint Forces Command's J9 Joint Experimentation Directorate. JFCOM, one of the Defense Department's nine unified commands, tested the software before adding it to the collaborative information environment portal, which is used by the United States and several of its multinational allies in Iraq.

Welcome to the Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I) Portal

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U.S. Joint Forces Command in mid-March added open, Web-based document and file management software from Xythos to its Cross Domain Collaborative Information Environment portal.
The Defense Department sees document and content management in terms of information management, which can include anything from an operational plan to a file captured from the enemy, says Herbert Strauss, a Gartner VP and principal national security analyst. By better organizing this information and providing broad, yet secure, access, the military has the ability to provide its commanders and their allies with information crucial to their mission.

WebFile Server provides access controls that let authorized officers and field personnel read, write, and delete documents. Because the document-management system, which will be used by about 5,000 people, is Web-based, it can be extended out to soldiers operating throughout Iraq's combat zones, says Fletcher, who last week returned from the implementation effort in Iraq. The document-management system had to be Web-based because "we didn't want to have to install client software on thousands and thousands of machines," he adds.

The key to the new software's success is its ability to interact with any software that's WebDav-enabled. WebDav, short for Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning, is a set of extensions to the HTTP protocol that allows users to collaboratively edit and manage files on remote Web servers. Although U.S. military personnel can access the document-management system from the states, the heart of the system, including the databases where documents are stored, is run out of Iraq.

"The users in country needed a way to manage their information," Fletcher says. "In the past, a lot of document standards were based upon proprietary interfaces to documents. We wanted something that was entirely standards-based."

The collaborative information environment portal into which WebFile Server fits is notable for its use of open-source and open-standards technology. The portal was built using the Exo open-source platform. Other components include Java Specification Request 168, which enables interoperability between portlet applications and portals; the Web Services for Remote Portlets specification, which defines the Web-services interfaces and semantics for interactive, presentation-oriented content services; and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, a set of open-source XML streaming protocols created by the Jabber Software Foundation for instant messaging.

JFCOM's use of technology based on open standards, even open source, indicates an aggressiveness to deploy new technology, Strauss says. The role of information management has been elevated throughout the military as a result of the current war effort, which encompasses military action in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a borderless campaign against terrorists worldwide, he adds, saying, "There's far more attention paid to the ability to share information with agility than ever before."

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