The Defense Department's plans to shutter its Defense Knowledge Online portal are set. What comes next?
Defense Knowledge Online, the Defense Department-wide spin-off of the multi-purpose Army Knowledge Online portal, will shut down mid-year of fiscal 2012, pending the successful transition of services, according to a top DOD official.
The follow-on to DKO will be a Defense Information Systems Agency-led effort known as the Enterprise Services Portal Branch. The strategy will meet key Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) requirements that have been lumped into the DKO portal, said Col. Brian Hermann, chief of the enterprise application services division, DISA Program Executive Office – Global Information Grid Enterprise Services (PEO-GIS).
DKO’s usage numbers have not met expectations, and Hermann said requirements have shifted over time, as has the climate of DOD spending and efficiency.
“With DKO, there’s a lot of functionality there ... but the world has changed over the past five years, and as we look at the functionality there’s only a subset of [DKO] that is part of our way ahead,” he said.
The Enterprise Services Portal Branch aims to provide three core functions: file sharing, access to other enterprise services, and a storefront/marketplace for mobile applications and widgets. Hermann said it’s not technically a program, but a coordinated activity within PEO-GIS.
He said a lot of users have begun moving to SharePoint as a primary enterprise service, rather than DKO, for the purpose of internal file-sharing – so much so that DISA has been approached to create a centralized SharePoint internal file-sharing platform for use across DOD. The requests for an enterprise-wide SharePoint have helped drive the Enterprise Services Portal Branch, he added.
“The department has spoken in terms of capability needs by customers coming to DISA asking for SharePoint services. We’re responding to the needs and realities of the rest of the department right now,” he said.
For the function of accessing other enterprise services, Hermann said a good model is the intelligence community’s Intelink Passport, which acts as a single interface to access different applications and manage multiple accounts.
The marketplace function, while it may not consist of just a single storefront, would be a centralized place to access widgets and mobile apps for the joint community, he said.
The news comes within weeks of Federal Computer Week’s June 30 report that the Army intends to phase out AKO and replace some of its capabilities with its DISA-led enterprise e-mail program. Since that report, there has been uncertainty as to what the closure would mean for DKO.
At a July 14 briefing held by the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, Army CIO/G-6 Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence admitted she wasn’t sure about the relationship between AKO and DKO or what the changes to AKO would mean for the enterprise-wide spin-off, but said it was something her office is actively pursuing.
DKO was designed to be a DOD-wide version of AKO, which offers a number of different services, including e-mail, instant messaging/chat, search, directory services, profiles, blogs and forums. AKO is also used by retirees, Army families and members of the Army Reserves and National Guard.
It is unclear what will happen to those functions as DKO shuts down and AKO’s future remains uncertain – or even if they will still exist, according to a source close to the story speaking on the condition of anonymity. Also unclear: the future of the Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) training portal, which had been run by the now-shuttered Joint Forces Command.
Even with the implementation of DKO, which launched in 2006, the services still have maintained in-house portals – a big part of the reason DKO hasn’t met the expected numbers of users, Hermann said. While DKO currently has roughly 250,000 users, it was originally intended for use by 2.5 million users across DOD. The use of separate portals for the services seriously diminished those intentions, he added. (For more on AKO, DKO and enterprise e-mail by the numbers, click here.)
“Over the past five years, DOD has had portal wars. Everyone chose to have their own separate portals but still needed a single place for sharing across the services ... that’s what we envision now,” he said. “The transition for users is a primary concern, and that’s being negotiated with the Army. We’re not leaving anyone in a lurch. We’re working one-on-one to see if our solutions meet their needs, or if it’s outside of our scope.”
He stressed that the Enterprise Services Portal Branch won’t replace all portal activities for the services, but instead put in place a capability to share between them.
It will, however, effectively sever dependencies on AKO to provide enterprise managed services, Hermann said. As such, AKO’s potential shutdown would have little impact on the services offered by DKO and, later, the DISA-led follow-on solution.
DKO has been funded as an Acquisition Category-I (major defense acquisition) NCES program, with part of the money being moved to the Army to run DKO. The DKO closure means DISA will retain those funds for the operation of SharePoint services, Hermann said.
It’s a lot of moving parts that will require much coordination under broader DOD efforts to streamline and achieve better efficiencies.
“There are a lot of disparate requirements for these three key points – finding a single solution is a huge challenge. We’re trying to use the funding we have to meet all three requirements in an efficient manner,” Hermann said. “In the end, we have a large set of customers and we have to make sure we take care of them.”
For AKO, DKO, JKO and enterprise e-mail by the numbers, click here.