The Defense Information Systems Agency's realignment of its computing and storage operations is all about standardization, optimization and consistency.

The end result of this realignment, described by DISA's operations center director David Bennett as a computing ecosystem, is one holistic computing environment physically dispersed across multiple sites with the functions and capabilities managed remotely based upon who owns each capability, Bennett told C4ISRNET in a recent interview.

Previously, there were ten different defense enterprise computing centers, each with their own chain of command, data center tools and way of doing business to execute their mission, Bennett said.

When Bennett first started working in the computing side of the agency around 2013, one of his tasks was reducing costs, he said. One way to reduce costs involved examining how the agency was running computing.

"As I became more familiar with the structure and how we did computing in the agency, it became more and more clear that we didn't have one computing environment, we didn't have one way of doing business; we had ten," he said. "From a cost perspective, I was essentially paying for ten iterations of generically the same function."

With a singular computing ecosystem built around "one way of doing business, one set of tools that everybody would use, one set of techniques, tactics, procedures," Bennett said he would only need one director and one support staff member in the front office of a data center.

Conceding the notion was not his alone, Bennett said he approached people who had been in the computing environment for a long time, and they worked together on the idea. Once they decided to align personnel with skill sets and background, the team spent about eight months working through the details of a final product and how it would function.

Bennett described the need for a horizontal as opposed to vertical way of doing business. This led to lines of business that look at all costs and drivers to deliver a function, as opposed to just the costs associated with a particular aspect of computing, such as storage.

As a result, the team developed eight distinct lines of business that are responsible for defining and optimizing how the mission would be executed for that entire line of business within the ecosystem.

The eight lines of business are:

1) Communications

2) Cyber

3) Data center

4) Implementation and sustainment

5) Infrastructure

6) Mainframe

7) Server

8) Special services

The individual charged with the mainframe line of business, for instance, is not only responsible for figuring out and understanding what costs are associated with mainframe computing, Bennett said; they also must understand how to drive down costs. These include storage, communications, labor, security, applications, and operating systems needed to support mainframes.

From a workforce perspective, Bennett said the initial team went down the line name by name of all employees and contractors to identify where they would best fit within the ecosystem and in which line of business they would have the best opportunity to excel. Before the ecosystem went live, DISA fully realigned the entire computing workforce to this new line of business methodology, so everyone already knew which line of business they were going to be in, what their chain of command was going to be, and what their focus area would be, Bennett explained.

From a customer standpoint, the ecosystem simplifies the process by preventing mission partners from having to figure out who they should talk to or what they should do in a certain circumstance, he said. Under the old model, Bennett added, every data center did things differently. Now, there's a standard procedure for how they interact with mission partners.

This will be fully implemented over several years, Bennett said:

  • Fiscal '17: focused on implementation of the ecosystem strategy
  • Fiscal '18: focused on standardizing and reducing the numbers of tools to a minimal set
  • Fiscal '19 and beyond: focused on optimization, continuing to streamline and become more efficient to drive costs down