Air Force poised for .Net testing

Air Force Standard Systems Group

The Air Force Standard Systems Group joint development program (SSG-JDP) with Microsoft Corp. is awaiting approval from the command level to begin user testing in Microsoft's .Net environment, according to officials from both organizations.

The Air Force currently uses Windows 2000 and Active Directory server forests, but the SSG-JDP has five .Net servers in production and is awaiting approval to start using a .Net server forest, said David Horton, Microsoft's program manager for government requirements, during an Aug. 27 seminar at the Air Force IT Conference (AFITC) in Montgomery, Ala.

The SSG-JDP was designed to enable testing of Air Force-developed products against Microsoft's Windows environment, according to Air Force officials.

Microsoft describes the .Net platform as a framework for driving the next generation of distributed computing, one that will take the Internet toward a truly collaborative, interactive environment. At its core is Extensible Markup Language (XML).

Underlying the .Net framework is a line of software products and toolsets that will be used to build Web services. A series of .Net Enterprise Servers, for example, will provide the back-end support for the distributed Web-based environment, including products already available, such as Windows 2000 Server, SQL Server 2000 and Microsoft Exchange 2000.

Barry Hartmann, the Air Force's SSG-JDP program manager, said a meeting is taking place Aug. 29 with all the major stakeholders, including leadership from the Air Force Materiel Command, of which SSG is a part, and he is hopeful that approval to launch the .Net forest will come then.

If that approval is granted, it would take no more than a few weeks to get SSG users, probably from the software development team, migrated onto the .Net forest and to begin testing, Hartmann said.

Horton said .Net would not be deployed within the Air Force until it is "tested for functionality and security" by the SSG-JPD, and there are hundreds of features -- about half of which are security-related -- that the Air Force must test.

The SSG-JPD eventually would like to become the Air Force's one-stop shop for all Microsoft products that impact service programs, but for now the focus is internal because the program is funded by SSG overhead dollars. Major commands are welcome to join, but must pay their own way, Hartmann said.

"We're in the early stages of getting an Air Force-wide perspective; now it's an SSG perspective," he said.

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