‘Game-Changing’ Containers as a Service for Warfighters
The Defense Information Systems Agency Host and Compute Center’s new containers as a service (CaaS) solution will provide flexibility to warfighters across the Department of Defense, according to the center’s Branch Chief of Enterprise Virtualization, Shauna Martin. The branch is providing various virtual infrastructures and platforms, including CaaS, Stratus, virtual desktop infrastructures, X86 and non-X86 virtual infrastructures.
Martin, who has been with the agency for 26 years, sees these offerings as a step forward in modernized and secure computing. “When it comes to what I'm most proud about, it's really such a game changing platform to be able to host within DISA HaCC’s portfolio of services. I'm most proud of the cross-discipline team that came together to make such an idea a reality. Containerized platforms are rather complex. And it is a cloud-native technology.”
HaCC is providing the on-premise containerized hosting platform, managing it from the orchestration layer on down and securing the environment’s cyber posture. Currently, they are relying on the OpenShift Red Hat, Kubernetes-based orchestration. “We have talked to multiple other industry partners that have different flavors of orchestration layers and continue to have conversations with them, so we are not locked into to what we're doing. As additional capabilities become available across industry, we can absolutely leverage those.”
The solution allows mission partners to skip having to develop their own tools or skill sets needed to manage such a complex environment. Instead, they can go right to hosting what they need in that environment.
“They can focus on their application development, and simply deploy it and run it on the environment,” the branch chief stated. “Being able to give mission partners an opportunity to keep their data, keep their applications on-prem while still utilizing a cloud-native capability is really important to us. With this, the mission partners can get some of the same ‘whiz bang’ things that they receive up in the cloud, such as application portability, smaller compute footprints, less downtime during application upgrades. They no longer have any configuration drift between their development test and production platforms. It truly streamlines and makes things on both the development side and the production side quite efficient when deploying applications.”
Several user groups, including from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, are already employing CaaS for their applications. The branch also is having “various levels of discussions” with other groups across DoD. “It is generating quite a bit of buzz and excitement with many different development teams that we’ve spoken with,” Martin said. “There does seem to be a lot of demand within agencies to modernize their legacy applications with containers as well as develop new applications utilizing this technology.”
With this, the mission partners can get some of the same ‘whiz bang’ things that they receive up in the cloud, such as application portability, smaller compute footprints, less downtime during application upgrades.
Naturally, some applications are easier to move to containerization, the branch chief noted, saying, “stateless web servers are, by far, the easiest target to move on to containers. And because this is a cloud, native hybrid technology, you can run your web server on the CaaS platform, and it can reach back and communicate to a bare metal database running in the data center with no problems.”
Large databases, such as Oracle and Structured Query Language, or SQL, require “a bit of a refactoring,” she said.
The branch will continue to look at the demand signals from mission partners to provide future CaaS needs. “One of the main things we want to do since this is a new service is just continue that feedback loop with our mission partners and try to form one of the best hosting capabilities that we can based on their feedback,” Martin stated. “Since we're kind of early on in the game, it seems like a lot of that demand is location driven. We're having some talks with folks OCONUS (outside of the continental United States) that would like to utilize such a capability. Right now, we are in the DISA Oklahoma City data center, there seems to be a demand to place the platform in other data centers. And multiple folks have asked about an IL 6 (impact level 6) deployment, so we will be looking at deploying IL 6 at some point in the future."
Learn more about the JWCC, other DISA efforts, U.S. Cyber Command priorities and DoD technology considerations at AFCEA International's TechNet Cyber flagship event, May 2-4 in Baltimore.