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CHIPS Articles: Air Force Data Services Reference Architecture

Air Force Data Services Reference Architecture
Integrating functions of the chief information officer, chief management officer, chief data officer to spearhead a Digital Air Force
By Air Force Chief Data Office - May 10, 2019
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- As discussed in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the United States is facing an increasingly complex global security environment marked by the re-emergence of long-term strategic competition, rapid technological change and new concepts of warfare. The advantage in this next-generation of warfare will go to militaries that can gather, share and exploit data. To compete against great power adversaries and develop the underlying structures to dominate the new and emerging character of war, the Air Force must harness the power of the ongoing data revolution. For this to occur, the Air Force must become a data-driven organization that institutes policies and procedures which make data secure, visible, accessible, understandable, linked and trusted, or SVAULT.

To ensure Airmen have uninterrupted access to the SVAULT data they need, where and when they need it, the Air Force is integrating the functions of the chief information officer, the chief management officer and the chief data officer to spearhead a Digital Air Force initiative. A foundational piece of the DAF initiative is the Air Force Data Services Reference Architecture, signed by Matthew Donovan, under secretary of the Air Force, February 27. The DSRA outlines the Air Force’s approach to achieving SVAULT principles using modern and open data services technologies and architectural design patterns.

The objective of the Service Reference Architecture document is to provide clear guidance for the design, development, implementation and use of Air Force major command and functional data platforms. It provides common language for the various stakeholders, provides consistency of implementation of technology to solve problems, supports the validation of proposed solutions and encourages adherence to common standards, specifications and patterns.

By adhering to these standards, both metadata and data will be made more SVAULT; data jails will be avoided and data will be shared across platforms. The data’s trustworthiness on different platforms will be exposed and the ability to link data together to support use case implementations will be increased. The document also serves as an authoritative source about a specific subject area that guides and informs the models of multiple architectures and solutions.

The Air Force DSRA is positioned below the Enterprise Reference Architecture level and crosses mission areas and portfolios. It is intended to demonstrate a capability-oriented architecture and support the implementation of diverse solution architectures for scalable data management, data-as-a-service and analytics-as-service capabilities. For ease of use, the reference architecture organizes data platform capabilities into four capability layers with two services overlays:

Capability Layers
• Data Product Consumer Services – these services consist of both value-added and micro services that interact directly with the end consumers of an Air Force DSRA platform implementation. DPCS consume services from Enterprise Data and Analytics Services, Enterprise Metadata Services and Data Platform Foundation Services.

• Enterprise Data and Analytics Services – these services consist of both value added and micro services that provide data storage and operations, provide services to the DPCS, provides services to and consume them from the EMS and consume services from the DPFS.

• Enterprise Metadata Services – these services consist of both value added and microservices that support publication and discovery of data assets, data products, analytics and services across a solution implementation. They consume DPFS and EDAS and provide services to EDAS and DPCS.

• Data Platform Foundation Services – these services consist of foundational value added and micro services that are general purpose services consumed by the other three layers.

Services Overlays
Value Added Services represent value added user and consumer activities that Air Force DSRA is intended to support. Each VAS contains a description and functional standards and can be rendered by combining microservices into standard configurations and workflows as reusable, compound services. For configuration and implementation, each VAS has a defined workflow and a bill of materials consisting of the component microservices, data assets and analytic assets needed for the activity to fulfill the business need.

Microservices detail the fundamental core functions of a solution implementation of Air Force DSRA and represent the software components of the solutions that are installed and developed, tested and exposed as services within the Air Force DSRA to support the VAS. Each micro has clear standards, constraining criteria and benchmark performance targets that can be used for test-driven development and continuous integration. Combining these microservices into standard configurations and workflows as reusable, compound services creates Value Added Services.

Adherence to the Air Force DRA encourages the use of cloud native services, open source software products and commercial-off-the-shelf software while remaining product and vendor agnostic. This positions the Air Force with the greatest degree of agility and competition while creating an environment where data can be shared and rapid incremental capabilities can be delivered monthly.

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