Simplicity, standards guide DOD's new infrastructure
The DOD's JTE initiative focuses on simplicity, operability
The goal of the IT infrastructure that the Defense Department is aiming for with its new Joint Information Environment (JIE) initiative is to get information to and from warfighters in order to provide the kind of accurate situational awareness that’s needed to successfully complete missions. The method it’s using to build this advanced infrastructure is focused squarely on simplicity.
Each military service currently builds its own IT infrastructure, and all are connected through a common network and share core information services. But the interconnections are complex, and it’s often difficult — sometimes impossible — for commanders to glean from this the information they need.
The JIE, in contrast, will be based on a hierarchy of data centers designed to easily and rapidly get information to warfighters wherever they are. A small set of core data centers — what DOD Deputy CIO Robert Carey called flagship data centers — will link to various regional data centers, and they in turn will connect with data centers erected as and when needed at the site of any action.
Standards are at the core of this network, Carey said.
“The flagship data centers will be built to a certain standard that I can replicate as we go from the core to the edge,” he said. “That means the guys at the edge will be connected to the exact same information that is processed through those flagship data centers.”
Standards will also define most other elements of the new infrastructure, including both hardware and software. That will allow a consistency of approach that isn’t possible with the current, heterogeneous nature of the DOD infrastructure and will enable far more effective and efficient provisioning of the network.
It will also substantially improve security, Carey said, because the security envelope will be able to fit over the network in a simpler and more complete way than it does now.
“With the environment we have today, it’s like defending 10,000 separate elements,” he said. “But with the JIE, as I slowly consolidate and standardize, it makes it much easier to defend things holistically with firewalls [and] intrusion-detection systems and to employ gateway deep packet inspection.”
It also takes a lot fewer people to oversee this, he said, which means that managing the security terrain will be much more effective than in the past.
Unlike security today, which is often bolted onto the infrastructure after the fact, the architecture of the JIE is being designed to be secure upfront. The idea is to protect the data and information carried over the network wherever it is and wherever the user needs to access it.
The cloud will also play a big role in the JIE. As the flagship data centers are created, they in essence become tied to DOD’s private cloud, Carey said.
“If users are to get to information from anywhere in the world,” he said, “the only way I know to do that is via identity, public-key infrastructure and accessing a cloud-like environment.”
The ultimate goal of the JIE is to support what Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has described as his vision of the future U.S. defense strategy based on an “innovative and technologically advanced” joint force that will be more agile, flexible and able to deploy quickly.
The good news with the approach that’s being taken with the JIE, Carey said, is that the technology envelope isn’t being pushed to provide this new IT infrastructure. In fact, he said, it could be done today with current technology. But given the standardization that will be built into it, DOD has confidence that the JIE will also be able to quickly take on any new technologies and innovate more completely across the DOD enterprise.