AF users say DMS is not light or lean enough

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany - The Air Force's premiere communications unit in Europe recently rejected the tactical version of the Defense Message System because the 1,000-pound package for unclassified and classified networks was too large to deploy.

According to officials at the 1st Combat Communications Squadron based here, the minimum tactical DMS configuration offered to them by the Air Force's DMS program office required six large transit cases to transport and deploy the servers, monitors, keyboards, PC Card readers, removable hard drives, tape drives and power supplies for both the non-secure and secure versions of the Defense Department's Internet Protocol Routing Network (NIPRNET and SIPRNET).

DMS is scheduled to replace the aging Automatic Digital Network message system at the end of this year. Developed in the 1960s, Autodin passes message traffic through a global network of highly secure but antiquated mainframes that use tape reels for data storage.

The Defense Information Systems Agency plans to replace this system with DMS, which uses a client/server configuration of PCs running commercial versions of products such as Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange and Lotus Development Corp.'s Notes. DISA also plans to extend DMS services to the tactical environment within the next three releases of the software.

According to 1st Lt. Tim Schwamb, network engineer and tactical communications equipment deployment expert with the 1st Combat Comm, the tactical DMS solution evaluated by the command was much larger than the communications package the command normally deploys to support initial e-mail and messaging capabilities in a tactical environment or at a location with less robust infrastructure.

"Traditional tactical communications normally come in scalable packages due to airlift constraints," Schwamb said. "The current Air Force version of tactical DMS is not scalable. It's a one-size-fits-all [solution]."

George Jakabcin, a DMS spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corp., admitted that the tactical version of DMS is heavy and can get even heavier if the various servers required are ruggedized. Although Lockheed Martin has not been tasked to develop any ruggedized systems and focuses primarily on providing integrated software functionality, "we are looking for solutions to make the footprint smaller," Jakabcin said.

In an official message to Air Force DMS program managers, the 1st Combat Comm recommended reducing the size of the server chassis, integrating the hard drives into the server, integrating the power supplies into the transit cases, and co-locating the NIPRNET and SIPRNET card readers and tape drives in order to reduce the footprint by at least half.

Janet Pandzik, the Air Force's DMS program manager, said the Air Force this summer will evaluate what she called a scalable standard solution and plans to begin deployment in September.

The Air Force is looking at having the equipment to support directory, security and network management functions located at either a tactical regional node or another in-theater location, Pandzik said. "While the tactical DMS program matures, the Air Force will provide technical and component support through [U.S.-based] resources," she said.

According to Pandzik, the Air Force originally developed three tactical DMS packages that were designed to meet the requirements of the majority of Air Force users.

For example, an initial package was designed to include laptop servers capable of supporting up to 400 users; a sustaining package offered rack-mounted servers to support up to 1,500 users; and a robust solution included rack-mounted servers that supported up to 3,000 users. However, the initial configuration was put on hold because no requirement had been identified, Pandzik said.

"We recently received a request for a smaller package and are currently responding to that request by suggesting the [initial] laptop package as originally engineered," Pandzik said.

A spokeswoman for DISA called the fielding of a tactical version of DMS "an evolving process" and said the agency is addressing it in a logical manner. "We continue to work closely with each of the services. [However,] each service is working their own tactical environment to meet their own specific requirements and needs," the spokeswoman said. "DISA is working to ensure that they have the adequate infrastructure they need."

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