Air Force groups set controls on use of products

But SSG and AFMC will have to rely on friendly persuasion, mindful of each unit’s
control over its own budget, Air Force officials said. Debra Haley, AFMC’s chief
information officer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, said she is careful to refer
to the command’s users as customers.


At SSG, the mandated presence of Microsoft Exchange Server and a modified version of
the Exchange client for the Defense Message System forced officials to implement more
central control, officials said.


“We put these configurations under the most disciplined product management in the
Air Force,” said Kenneth Heitkamp, SSG technical director at the Gunter Annex of
Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.


In the same way the Air Force standardizes its weapons systems, DMS and the Defense
Information Infrastructure’s Common Operating Environment are forcing control over
upgrades to standard software programs. “We’re just in the early stages of doing
that,” he said.


“In the past, we treated those products as commodities, and users could download
patches” from vendor Web sites, said Heitkamp, whose organization, like AFMC, is part
of the Electronic Systems Center.


“We now will approve certain versions as a part of COE. We must have high levels
of consistency and reliability if it’s part of the Global Combat Support
System,” Heitkamp said.


Lockheed Martin Corp. holds a GCSS contract to define, develop and install COE software
in the Air Force. AFMC must implement more central control over its network infrastructure
because of configuration, cost and security issues, Haley said.


In September, AFMC bought 72,000 Microsoft Exchange licenses, and officials plan to
have all 100,000 staff members using it by the end of next October [GCN, Oct. 12, 1998, Page 8].


“We were using 24 different products before,” Haley said. “It fractured
our communications systems. You couldn’t open up messages.”


AFMC now is certifying and accrediting network control centers to shut other entry
points to its networks. “We can’t accept even one back door,” Haley said.
An electronic mall on the command’s intranet will encourage users to buy approved
computer hardware at discounted prices.


Haley and Heitkamp both want to see fewer servicewide network management products,
which now range from Computer Associates International Inc. Unicenter to IBM Corp.
Tivoli/TME to Microsoft Systems Management Server.


“The Air Force needs to use fewer products across enterprises,” Heitkamp
said. “We clearly have to manage a global enterprise system in garrison and in
combat. We need fewer systems. It’s very expensive to train people to use different
products.”


As for AFMC, Haley said, “We’ll be looking at any vendor that provides a
competitive proposal.” The command does not plan to standardize on a single network
operating system, but “managing multiple operating systems can drive up costs,”
she said. 

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