Military News

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

IB 3.1: Building capabilities using the Air Force's IT infrastructure

by Justin Oakes
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


4/22/2015 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Air Force uses the concept of baselines to describe its IT infrastructure. Three baselines to be precise -- a target baseline, an implementation baseline and an operational baseline.

While all baselines are closely related and dependent upon one another, it is the implementation baseline -- also known as the IB -- that describes the managed platforms of the Air Force and essentially governs the basis for the development, integration and test environments.

Today, a Hanscom AFB team of engineers and program managers responsible for the evolution of the baseline released the latest version, IB 3.1.

"IB 3.1 will allow a limited number of managed platforms, which will help reduce infrastructure redundancy and decrease the time it takes to accredit and deploy capabilities as well as leverage commercial technologies at commoditized prices," said Dr. Tim Rudolph, IB Configuration Control Board chair.

Simply put, it's designed to save a lot of acquisition time and money in the way of accreditation, engineering and product purchases by eliminating needless technical variations across hundreds of programs.

Currently, there are several Air Force programs using the platforms cascading from the standards prescribed by the IB. SMART, an Air Force acquisition reporting tool, and DoctrineNext, which hosts all Air Force doctrine files, are a couple of examples in addition to many other larger business system applications in planning stages.

So what does this mean for other applications, and why should other Air Force programs adopt the IB concept?

Besides being mandated for all IT programs in development and those undertaking incremental upgrades, it all starts with the infrastructure entry point for applications, which is the Managed Services Office or MSO, also located at Hanscom AFB.

Beginning in fiscal year 2015, the Air Force directed the use of a Common Computing Environment, or CCE, for all new and modernizing IT applications. The CCE consists of the approved, funded elements or platforms of the IB the Air Force approved for implementation.

In conjunction with IB development and in an effort to provide application owners access to allowable products and services, the MSO captured those CCE platforms in a service catalog for Air Force applications to use.

Examples of information found within the catalog include computing infrastructure and management services as well as technical consulting services for building, testing, accrediting and administering applications.

This represents a major culture change for the Air Force.

"We shouldn't reinvent implementations for every small project and large program," Rudolph said. "The Air Force can better provide commodity infrastructure as a service by taking advantage of proven, secure, scalable and rapidly-available capabilities leveraging the investment of commercial IT for business and mission systems."

Most of the services listed in IB 3.1 are also offered in the MSO service catalog.

"These products have been initially selected to support a small number of specific Air Force business applications," said Maj. Jesse Hornback, MSO chief engineer and IB Technical Working Group chair. "As the IB matures, it will help guide the evolution of MSO's service catalog. The catalog balances program requirements and budgets and implements a subset of the IB, and will also be the tool that programs and industry draw from to provision IT platforms and services."

The service catalog is growing to include joint content, for example Agile Core Services with the Navy for command and control.

According to the MSO team, this approach will guide future enterprise service offerings or common services, for example, DISA enterprise services. Sample offerings include messaging, web services, security, digital signature and edge caching services.

Ultimately, this will allow Air Force applications to focus on capability development and not infrastructure while positioning the Service to effectively ride the commercial sector's innovative cycle.

"We have the opportunity and the responsibility to support more rapid application development, lower costs and accelerate capabilities to the warfighter," Rudolph said. "IB 3.1 helps us take advantage of this opportunity."

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