Wyatt Kash | DISA opens its software forge

The Defense Department and open-source software community passed a noteworthy milestone late last month.

The occasion: Defense Information Systems Agency officials declared that its new open software development and program-sharing tool, Forge.mil, had completed beta testing and was ready for unclassified use. Or, in military-speak, Forge.mil is now at initial operational capability.

The innovative DISA Web site has gained a respectable following in a relatively short time. Nearly 1,400 parties are using the site — twice the number as in early March. And more than 60 software projects are in now in development.

Forge.mil, developed by Carahsoft and CollabNet, is an adaptation of a public Web site known as SourceForge.net, which hosts thousands of open-source software projects.

Yet, in many regards, Forge.mil represents a breakthrough for the military in the way software solutions are developed, certified and deployed.

The strategy behind Forge.mil is not just to harness communities of developers to build and test software faster. It’s also aimed at speeding the certification process by making Forge.mil a place where the artifacts and byproducts of certification testing can be readily exchanged.

DISA expects it to do that through three core services. One service, named Software Forge, now in release 2.0, provides software version control, life cycle management services and other automated administrative functions. It also provides a software repository for anyone seeking reusable software components.

A second service, named Project Forge, offers on-demand, fee-based software that provides life cycle management tools designed to help developers meet specific military project requirements.

The third service, slated for delivery this summer, is named Certification Forge. It will offer tools and services that help reduce the time needed to test and certify software being delivered for use on military networks.

What makes Forge.mil even more promising is the ability developers will have to test software enhancements on RACE computers. This Rapid Access Computing Environment, developed by DISA’s computing services division, gives developers on-demand, pay-as-you-go access to a live DOD machines, in a controlled environment, to test their work.

Forge.mil won’t solve the ills of acquisition complexity and cultural inertia. Nor will a new wave of open-source software easily replace proven commercial tools. But it does stand as a working symbol of how DOD is taking more creative steps toward solving some of its software development needs.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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