By Heidi Biggar
Twenty-eight vendors representing a cross section of companies in the telecommunications, government, military, aerospace, and IT industries banded together recently to create the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC), a collaborative forum that plans to build a global network environment that promotes information sharing and interoperability.
Among the goals of the forum are improved communications and information sharing not only among government agencies (e.g., the CIA, Pentagon, etc.) but also defense contractors and IT providers, which supply the technologies that are used on the battlefield, and to monitor terrorist activities both in the US and abroad.
The premise is to build an architectural framework, based on existing and emerging standards, that will allow various vendors' systems to interoperate in the global network environment.
"Current systems are seldom able to share information," says Carl O'Berry, chairman of the executive council of the NCOIC and vice president of IBM's technology group. "There is little or no thought given to [the value of data] when coupled with other people's data."
While the NCOIC is not focused on developing a stand-alone standard to promote interoperability and information sharing, it is looking to take current and developing standards, such as the emerging SMI-S standard in the storage industry, to support national security objectives, according to Steve James, director of business development, department of defense and intelligent agencies, at EMC.
The Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) standard is an open management interface being developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) to ease interoperability issues with storage hardware and software from multiple vendors. (For more information, see "Everything you need to know about SMI-S," InfoStor, May 2004, p. 28.)
The NCOIC plans to establish a set of guidelines or standards that participating members can follow to ensure that systems being developed not only interoperate but also "speak" a common language, in effect creating a common network that is immediately accessible, for example, by ships, tanks, aircraft, etc. The proposed standards, however, would be designed to work with existing infrastructures.
But to get to this point, "the government needs help from the companies that are designing tomorrow's technology," says an NCOIC spokesperson, and that means enlisting the help of companies like Cisco, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Sun, which make the technologies to build this type of networking environment.
Other consortium members include BAE Systems, Boeing, CACI, Carillo Business Technologies, Ericcson, Factiva, Finmeccanica, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Innerwall, L-3 Communications (Integrated Systems), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Oracle, Raytheon, Rockwell Collins, SAAB, SAIC, Smiths Aerospace, Thales, and Themis.