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DISA's push toward a mobility ecosystem

May. 14, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By | AMBER CORRIN   |   Comments
DISA's mobility ecosystem would include building capabilities, features and control points to manage and mitigate the risk from the end points, according to Mark Orndorff, DISA program executive officer for information assurance and network operations.
DISA's mobility ecosystem would include building capabilities, features and control points to manage and mitigate the risk from the end points, according to Mark Orndorff, DISA program executive officer for information assurance and network operations. ()

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The organisms in an ecosystem coexist in a community that is a careful balance, inextricably linked to each other for their survival. In technology the use of “ecosystem” is a common metaphor, and while it’s a little bit different, some of the central tenets are the same: a harmonious, shared environment that is sustainable, scalable and controlled.

The latter is the goal of the Defense Information Systems Agency as leaders seek to institute an environment that extends mobility beyond simple convenience to the status quo. It’s an objective outlined in DISA’s newly released 2014-2019 Strategic Plan, and it’s a major talking point as Defense Department officials outline the path forward in defense IT.

“My big focus area is on building out this mobility ecosystem,” said DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins. “All things mobile is where we’re at.”

But what exactly goes into a mobility ecosystem?

“This whole concept of an ecosystem is building capabilities, features and control points that we manage that mitigate the risk from the end points, and that also give us the ability to provision services and the information-sharing and all the other things that will make mobile devices a robust portion of the architecture,” said Mark Orndorff, DISA program executive officer for information assurance and network operations.

The under-construction mobility ecosystem includes a number of DoD initiatives targeting mobility, including DISA’s high-profile mobile device management program. It also encompasses communications infrastructure, management control systems, a mobile app store, device security policy and configuration, certificate credentials for authentication, the big data for network security and other pieces, according to DISA officials.

Security is a critical part of the overall DoD mobile strategy, but it’s not the only part, Orndorff noted.

“It’s really bigger than just security,” he said. “When you talk about the mobility ecosystem, you’re taking the rest of the enterprise services, whether it’s email or portal or unified capabilities – making sure that ... all of those can include a mobile extension so that when you’re on a mobile device you’re fully functional just as if you’re plugged into the NIPRNet or SIPRNet.”

Orndorff said the reality is that everything done today in DoD from a desktop or laptop will eventually – and sooner rather than later – need to be done just as easily from a mobile device. But he also acknowledged that in an organization as large as DoD, that reality may be a little further from fruition than he’d prefer as progress trickles down from pilot programs and limited deployments.

“I’m pretty optimistic and excited because I think the potential is huge, but at the same time DoD is a really large organization with a lot of investments into existing infrastructure,” he said. “On one hand small numbers are a little frustrating, but the base is there now and all the prerequisites and approvals are in place. That work is essentially behind us, so now we can start making rapid progress to roll this out.”

Orndorff declined to specify a timeline, but he did say that the transition is under way, with more pieces being added along the way. One major piece that officials are working on is the integration of personal identity verification, such as DoD’s common access card, into devices. “That will be next big enabler from a security standpoint,” he said.

Read more from the JIE Mission Partner Symposium Show reporter.

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