In the Beginning
The distributed information systems experimentation (DISE) team, at the Naval Postgraduate School, uses knowledge management to plan and execute Department of Defense experiments. For example, the annual Trident Warrior series involves year-round coordination with geographically disparate organizations and personnel using both classified and unclassified networks.
During planning, execution, and the post-experiment stages of TW, data is collected through online feedback forms. The analysis of this and other collected data culminates in multiple decision informing reports.
DISE has been on the forefront of using KM for nearly a decade. The initial DISE team implemented a KM solution called FIRE (FORCEnet Innovation and Research Enterprise) in 2004 with the Oracle Collaboration Suite for Trident Warrior planning. OCS is comprised of a “shrinkwrapped“ server with portal and collaboration applications. Before the advent of Web 2.0 collaboration and the flexibility of service oriented architecture, FIRE was considered somewhat advanced, and it served the needs of KM well.
The core backend of OCS is the database server which made Oracle a good choice. The "out-of-the-box" software was both a plus and a curse. For those just beginning KM and collaboration, the out-of-the box approach simplified many aspects of maintenance, but could also serve as a straightjacket because of the inability for customizing to meet ever-changing user requirements. Nevertheless, the simplified approach allowed extensive portal post-development work that included the development of forms and reports needed by the experimenters.
Over time the FIRE solution grew into an enterprise-wide product. With growth came production challenges, including the need for hardware upgrades; software updates and security patches; backup and recovery decisions; and a requirement for help desk support. In addition, because DoD-wide systems must be certified and accredited according to information assurance policies to operate on a defense network, we had to satisfy security requirements. Many of the collaborative and data collection tools were limited on FIRE, and not flexible enough to expand capability and functionality when needed. The options for backup and recovery solutions were limited. In addition, our servers were reaching the five-year end of life cycle, and there was an opportunity to migrate to faster and cheaper servers to meet the new demands.
Since the heart of the system is the database, we decided to stay with an industry leader, so we chose Oracle Database 11g. The added bonus to using Oracle 11g is that the Navy has an Oracle Database Enterprise License which provides significant benefits, including substantial cost avoidance for the DON. (See page 66 for more information about the Navy's Oracle Enterprise License Agreement which requires mandatory use for Navy programs and activities covered by the agreement.)
For designing the next-generation architecture to build around the database, we determined that the system must:
• Work in three enclaves, unclassified, secret and top secret, with minimum IA work.
• Be easily maintained by a small team of IT personnel and faculty but still be scalable.
• Minimize the number of single points of failure and offer a robust backup and recovery capability.
• Leverage current developers' knowledge and our development investment.
• Take advantage of new technologies, such as SOA and Web 2.0, while maintaining a bridge from the legacy solution to the new.
• Include developer tools for simple applications used to import Microsoft Excel and Access files.
• Use open source standards as much as possible.
• Work with a wide range of operating systems from Windows 7, to Snow Leopard, to Red Hat Linux. The platform must support a wide-range of developer tools and langua