Pentagon Looks for IT Advice

The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is turning to a wide range of companies to find new ways to support the Department of Defense and the branches of the U.S. armed services.

Agency officials have met with a variety of major companies -- including Google, UPS, Amazon, Sabre and FedEx -- over the past year to talk about how the companies use technology, said DISA CIO John Garing, a retired Air Force colonel.

So far, the meetings have convinced DISA, which provides contracted IT services and support to the U.S. military, that so-called cloud computing is "going to be the way [to go] -- it has to be. We have to get to this standard environment that is provisionable and scalable," Garing said.

In fact, he said that DISA plans to soon deploy a system that's similar architecturally to Amazon.com Inc.'s Elastic Compute Cloud technology, a Web-based service that lets users quickly scale up their processing capabilities.

DISA's system, called the Rapid Access Computing Environment, or RACE, is slated for launch in October, the start of the federal government's fiscal year.

Garing said he was also impressed with Google Inc.'s process of moving strong new product ideas from the laboratory to beta testing to real users in just a few months.

DISA officials took a close look at systems created by Amazon and Sabre Holdings Corp. 's Travelocity.com unit that help IT prepare for the unexpected, he added.

Ray Bjorklund , an analyst at consulting firm Federal Sources Inc. in McLean, Va., noted that the agency often has to compete with private-sector IT services firms for the military business. DISA's moves to enlist help from such technologically advanced companies will help it gain business in the long run, he said.

"DISA is very conscientious of its position as a service provider," Bjorklund added.

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