Domino gives war game participants a comm link

Domino gives war game participants a comm link

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Although the Air Force has standardized on Microsoft Exchange for the Defense Message System, the service is showing there's room for Lotus Development Corp.'s rival product.

To handle a flurry of e-mail messages'6,215 over a four-hour period'the Air Force War Gaming Institute used Lotus Domino Server 4.6.3.a running under Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 4 in a war game in May, said Maj. Rodger Culkin, the former director of the Tandem Challenge at Maxwell Air Force Base's Gunter Annex, Ala.

In part because of its remote support capabilities, the war game application cost far less to develop and support than would a typical custom-developed command and control app.

The software ran on two rackmounted Compaq ProLiant 1600R servers with dual Pentium Pro processors and RAID Level 5 storage.

'The No. 1 problem is we needed to have a way for all the people to communicate,' said Culkin, who attended the Air Force War Gaming Institute's exercise this year after directing it last year. He is a B-52 radar navigator at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The exercise is an annual pre-graduation event at Air University.

More than 1,100 users from three sites took part in this year's two-week war game, Culkin said. 'In our worst-case estimate for the Air Command and Staff and Air Force War Gaming Institute, we estimated that a single user would receive 850 e-mail messages per day,' he said. 'We knew that bandwidth was important, and we found not a single error' caused by system overloading.

The Air Force used Web clients to collaborate applications, with distributed clients running Microsoft Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Navigator 4.5, said Phillip R. Jones, site manager with contractor Logicon Inc. of Herndon, Va.

Virtual ideas

Logicon officials designed a virtual application that satisfied the bottom-line user requirements, Culkin said. 'They translated my ideas about format and presentation for the students' from the 1998 exercise, he said.

'Logicon developed something that was very intuitive. After the first day, it could master 90 percent of the user requirements,' Culkin said.

By Friday of the war game's first week, the conflict was set; during the second week, war gamers executed the plan set during the first week, after going through a joint force planning process.

'The planning side and execution side were closely aligned with [joint force] planning documents and execution documents,' Culkin said.

Ten simultaneous war games took place, and the programs were presented in an unclassified format, since about 10 percent of Air University's students are international officers, Culkin said.

An additional 10 percent of the students are from services other than the Air Force, he said. Firewalls separated the different war games.

Each user had a user name and password, which correlated to his playing position, Culkin said.

'We did that so people outside of Air University couldn't manipulate data,' he said.

Subject matter experts can log in remotely to Air University's system, which saves the service money for lodging and travel, Culkin said.

Using Domino Server resulted in significant cost savings, said Culkin.

The collaborative system cost about $250,000 to develop, whereas a custom software program would cost about $2 million to develop, he said.

'I appreciated [using] the system on both sides,' as a program manager last year and as a war game participant this year, Culkin said.

Air University officials plan to update to Domino 5 for next year's war game, Jones said.


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