DOD to ease limits on collaborative software

In a move that's sure to please the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Navy, Defense Department officials are relaxing their requirements for collaborative software.

A draft message from the Defense Information Systems Agency, DIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff will enable a wider group of collaborative software products to be used in DOD, said Don Eddington, director of the Advanced Information Technology Services Joint Program Office at DISA.

The unreleased draft lays out a different approach from the one described in a January draft memo, which had named a limited number of approved products for collaboration.

Collaboration software enables far-flung users to engage in real-time conferencing in which they can share documents, slides and applications and send instant messages to one another. For classified collaboration, Defense staffers use the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.

"There are so many people in DOD," Eddington said. "You can never get everyone to buy one product." Under the proposed guidelines, large groups of DOD users who have different products will be able to go into "one large room" for tactical collaboration. But for the most part, users will continue to work in smaller "rooms" or groups of users, he said.

In the January draft memo, Art Money, then DOD's chief information officer, had called for all DOD organizations to use the Defense Collaborative Tool Suite by Oct. 1.

DCTS was to be based on Microsoft Corp.'s NetMeeting and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s SunForum. Microsoft Digital Dashboard and Outlook and CUseeMe Networks Inc.'s (now First Virtual Communications Inc.) Conference Server were also to be included.

But DIA has 42,000 users of Ezenia! Inc.'s Info.WorkSpace, according to Jay McConville, the company's federal business director. The Air Force and Army also use InfoWorkSpace for some command and control applications.

"They're still in the chase" with the new draft memo, Eddington said of InfoWorkSpace.

The Navy also uses Lotus Development Corp.'s Sametime suite through the Collaboration@Sea program, Eddington said.

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