Last week we were at the TechNet Land Forces – East conference in Baltimore. This years theme was Cyber Security. There were more than 1,000 people from the Defense and Intelligence agencies/industry plus about 100 exhibitors. This year we highlighted customer application successes at the Army, Navy, and Marines leveraging the CorasWorks-on-SharePoint “Enterprise Shared Application Services” (ESAS) model. In this article, I’ll talk about the footprint of CorasWorks-on-SharePoint across the Defense and Intelligence landscape, how it enables a shared application services model and talk about some applications that we showed, and, wrap up with some thoughts about how ESAS may evolve.
CorasWorks for Defense/Intel since 2003
CorasWorks has been serving the Defense and Intelligence sector since we started in 2003. One of our first projects was building out a system to manage Warfighter exercises for the US Army that required near real time changes. During this time we also used the beta version of SharePoint 2003 to support a mock Federal Disaster Management exercise. Over the last 9 years, core web-based infrastructure has evolved a great deal, the SharePoint platform has changed, CorasWorks application technology has matured, the CorasWorks footprint has grown tremendously, and, the approach to delivering on the customers’ mission has matured.
The Current Enabling Footprint
I’ll talk about our footprint in the Defense/Intel sector from 4 perspectives. Each of these relates to the enablement of the shared applications services model and how it impacts the overall mission of Defense/Intel sector.
Adoption – CorasWorks has been deployed broadly across the Army, Navy, and Marines. It is also widely deployed across DoD Special Operations Commands, Homeland Security, Intelligence agencies, and, amongst supporting civilian agencies such as Dept of Justice and Dept of State. This means that our solution platform is already deployed on SharePoint which makes it available to all supported users across each of these agencies and can support inter-agency collaboration.
Certifications – CorasWorks has maintained a number of key certifications for our flagship CorasWorks Solution Platform product (now in version 11) across SharePoint 2003, SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010. These include Certificate of Networthiness (Army), Dept of State, DADMS (Navy/Marines), and Technical Reference Manual (Dept of Homeland Security).
Systems Integrator Support – More than half of the top 50 Federal Systems Integrators are engaged in delivering solutions that leverage CorasWorks on SharePoint. In some agencies, we have 10-20 organizations all building different solutions, but, leveraging the common CorasWorks-SharePoint platform. With the broad availability of CorasWorks on these enterprise environments, it is very practical for these systems integrators to look to leverage CorasWorks first as opposed to planning to write custom compiled code that needs to be installed into the environment (SharePoint and/or non-SharePoint) with the attendant delays and risks.
Base of Agency Citizen Developers – Over the years, the personnel in the agencies have learned to leverage CorasWorks as “citizen developers”. This term was coined by Gartner in 2010 and highlighted in a case study of the US Marines and its use of CorasWorks and SharePoint (Case Study: Citizen Developers Help the U.S. Marine Corps Improve Its Knowledge Management – Gartner ID:G00201455). These individuals are able to modify CorasWorks-based applications in real time to meet situational needs without requiring environment changes (or they can build new ones without affecting the IT environment). A more recent Gartner report in June of 2011 further expands on Citizen Developers (and references CorasWorks) and its growing importance in delivering value and also in providing a more secure IT operational environment ((Citizen Developers Are Poised to Grow, 2011 – Gartner ID: G00213183).
Application Successes and Success of Shared Application Services
At TechNet we highlighted three applications as follows:
Configuration Management (US Navy) – This system centrally manages a range of configuration activities including equipment life cycle, design, fabrication, and, assembly of equipment, and change requests.
Project Portfolio Reporting (US Army) – For a major command, this system provides visibility, reporting and data analysis for senior staff across a broad portfolio of project work throughout the command.
Combat Development Command (US Marines) – This system manages requests for equipment, training, and capabilities across the globe, providing real time visibility throughout the life cycle to senior staff.
Taken individually each application represents a best of breed, custom tailored system supporting a broad group of users. Each rivals the best option for a far more expensive custom developed system. However, each of these applications was created leveraging CorasWorks-on-SharePoint. This means that they did not require custom compiled code development (and thus no new code deployment by IT was required on the enterprise infrastructure). Accordingly, they were designed and developed to leverage the existing “enterprise shared application services” platform of CorasWorks v11 on SharePoint.
While each of these systems were built with involvement from CorasWorks Professional Services they also leveraged third-party systems integrators and in-house personnel. In addition, they are just one of many different applications leveraging the same infrastructure and various teams of people that are able to design and build applications that are part of the inter-connected framework of applications running on the shared application environment in each of these commands. (Meaning, fewer siloes and greater inter-connection.)
Considering the Future of Enterprise Shared Application Services (ESAS) Environments
For the last five years, the approach of enterprise shared application services (ESAS) has been increasingly adopted. This adoption has often been driven by reasons of proven results, cost-effectiveness and manageability of the approach. Yet, while the infrastructure is broadly in place the overall recognition and use is still in its infancy.
Today, there are a number of forces at work that could accelerate the adoption of ESAS. Right now, there is a major push for better managed infrastructure/networks lead by initiatives for Private Clouds, Public Clouds, and overall Cyber Security. Part of the emphasis is lower costs, but also, greater manageability to reduce the surface area of risks/exposure.
Logically, I believe that the emphasis on infrastructure should naturally shift to the application layer and follow the logic that leads to ESAS. It goes like this – add a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) ESAS layer, with very pliable software, such as CorasWorks-SharePoint, to support a broad set of application requirements and thereby reduce the exposure to risks inherent in siloed, custom built applications, while achieving comparable results at less cost and time.
Realistically, I don’t envision a super majority adoption of an ESAS-model in the next few years in the Defense and Intelligence sector. But, over the next 10 years, an acceptance of simpler applications, the need for more manageable environments up through the application layer, along with continued innovation in the pliability of application software, can drive the tipping point towards ESAS.