DISA rolls out Defense Department online collaboration tool

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This screen shot shows the Defense Information Systems Agency’s new online collaboration tool, which offers Defense Department employees anywhere in the world secure Web conferencing, as well as secure instant messaging and chat capabilities. DISA photo illustration   (Click photo for screen-resolution image)
This screen shot shows the Defense Information Systems Agency’s new online collaboration tool, which offers Defense Department employees anywhere in the world secure Web conferencing, as well as secure instant messaging and chat capabilities. DISA photo illustration (Click photo for screen-resolution image)

DISA rolls out Defense Department online collaboration tool

by: Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News | .
Defense Media Activity | .
published: February 10, 2015

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2015 – The Defense Information Systems Agency is rolling out a new online collaboration tool that offers Defense Department employees anywhere in the world secure web conferencing and secure instant messaging and chat capabilities.

The new open-source-based capability, called Defense Collaboration Services, or DCS, is available to anyone worldwide with a common access card, or CAC, on the unclassified NIPRNet, or to anyone with a SIPRnet token on the classified network, Karl Kurz, DISA program manager for DCS, told DoD News during a recent interview.

NIPRNet is the Sensitive but Unclassified Internet Protocol Router Network, and SIPRNet means Secret Internet protocol router network, and both are DoD networks.

“Anyone who has either one of those [authorized network accesses] is authorized to create an account on DCS and then can hold meetings using this service,” Kurz said. “Defense Collaboration Services is in the process of rolling out to the department.”

Defense Collaboration Services

“We initially released a tech preview to the entire department for testing on Oct. 1,” Kurz added, “and then as we matured the service, we reached initial operational capability in mid-December.”

At that point, the computer scientist said, DISA began transitioning internal collaboration sessions and processes from the predecessor system, Defense Connect Online, to DCS.

DISA worked with U.S. Cyber Command, which released a message in January directing the configuration of local networks across the department, Kurz said, “so that by the end of February, the entire department will have the ability to reach DCS.”

Many DoD organizations already have configured their local networks and completed system testing, he noted.

Integrating Into the DoD Environment

Describing what it means that DCS is based on open-source software, Kurz explained that such software is available without licensing costs to anyone who wants to use it.

“Our configuration of it is unique to us, [because] we integrate the open-source software into the DoD environment,” he said. “So now it inherits all the secure-hosting-environment attributes that our data centers provide while maintaining the easy-to-use interfaces that the software came with.”

What DCS offers employees is an easy and secure way to exchange information with co-workers through secure Web conferencing and secure instant messaging and chat, Kurz said.

Through DCS web conferencing, users can communicate securely using voice and video and have the ability to share documents, PowerPoint slides, photographs and spreadsheets in different formats.

Secure Instant Messaging

DCS instant messaging allows secure person-to-person instant text messaging and room-based chat for multiple users.

“It’s very secure, using the latest industry standards and hosted within secure DISA data centers,” Kurz said. “We actually reside on milCloud, the DoD hosting environment that is secure and very flexible.”

A cloud-services portfolio managed by DISA, milCloud offers an integrated suite of capabilities that can facilitate the development, deployment and maintenance of secure DoD applications, according to the DISA website. It leverages commercial off-the-shelf and government-developed technology to produce DoD-tailored cloud services.

Kurz said DISA is committed to providing DCS under a set of requirements it receives from the Joint Staff in coordination with other mission partners throughout the Defense Department.

Efficiencies and Cost Savings

DCS is integrated with other DoD enterprise services, and Kurz said this delivers efficiencies and cost savings along with secure communication services across the department.

DCS integrates, for example, with the DoD public key infrastructure, the framework that integrates digital certificates, public-key cryptography, and certification authorities into a DoD-wide CAC-based network security architecture.

By leveraging the DoD Application Services Directory, DCS eliminates the need for users to manage another account. Within hours of receiving a CAC, users are able to start collaborating via DCS. Additionally, DCS also leverages milCloud to provide secure Infrastructure as a Service, known as IaaS, in a military data center.

Leveraging milCloud

Kurz said milCloud has a significantly lower cost of ownership to the customer because of the ability to host multiple applications on multiple virtual servers. “So they're able to spread that load out and then pass the savings on to me,” he added.

“Using milCloud also allows me to take advantage of milCloud's highly secure environment, and to scale DCS as required,” Kurz said, “because I'm able to stand up a server very quickly, as compared to standard hosting.

“As these things scale and we become a common consumer of a lot of these enterprise services,” he continued, “the cost to me as a program manager, and in the end, the taxpayer, is dramatically lower than if I had to create,[manage and maintain] each of those myself.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)