Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cultural, not Technological Obstacles for DoD

PIA-based hybrid networks differ from the client-server environment and even more from the mainframe data center environment. For example, in the client-server environment, there are multiple links from desktops to the servers. An estimated 15,000 networks are in place in the Defense Department providing such connectivity. In the hybrid cloud environment, there is only a single link from any PIA to every conceivable server.

Also, in the client-server environment, each server-silo operates as a separate computing cluster. In a hybrid cloud configuration, there are automated services that discover where the requested data is located.

Finally, in the client-server environment, there is a proliferation of separate databases with duplicate data. Almost every major application keeps storing a diverse amount of incompatible data because that is dictated by the way in which organizations let contracts for isolated applications. Added software then is required for translating content as well as formats. It makes real-time interoperability hard to achieve. In a hybrid cloud configuration, there is a universal metadata directory, which steers database accesses to the applicable servers that will provide automated responses.

The key issue facing the Defense Department now is how to migrate to where it should be—a more robust hybrid cloud environment. How fast can the department transition into a hybrid cloud that delivers universal connectivity to every PIA? How can the department change its information architecture so that the technical details of information technology management will remain invisible to users?

The obstacles that block the transition from a fractured computer-centric asset acquisition environment to a universal user-centric architecture are cultural, not technological.

It is not the limitation of technologies that are holding up the Defense Department’s progress. The technology of cloud computing is readily available. What needs to be overcome is the prevailing acquisition-centered culture. Instead of integrating systems for universal interoperability, the department still is pursuing a policy of systems fragmentation. Contracts are awarded that are dictated by acquisition regulations and not by operating needs.

The current process for acquiring information technology is broken into six phases to contain risks. This separates planning, development, vendor solicitation, contracting for services, asset acquisition, and operations and ongoing maintenance. To create a Defense Department system requires the coordination of dozens of organizations, multiple contracts and a large number of subcontracts. This results in an elongation of implementation schedules that are currently twice as long as the technology innovation cycle. Meanwhile, projects will be managed by executives who will be on an assignment only for a short while before moving on. This will guarantee that changes in scope will creep in, budgets will rise and results will fall short of what originally was proposed.

SUMMARY

The fundamental issue in the Defense Department is not the supply of technologies but the department’s capacity to organize for making the transition into the hybrid clouds. What needs changing is not technology, but rather, the fiscal culture.

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