Teera Konakan

You Get a Software Factory! And You Get a Software Factory!

DISA’s Vulcan program aims to give defense agencies and field activities all the tools they need to improve their software development practices.

It’s no secret that the Pentagon can’t get enough software factories. And while the military services have them, each with different approaches and models, the dozens of defense agencies and activities, often called the Fourth Estate, don’t have one they can call their own. But that could change in the New Year.

In January, the Defense Information Systems Agency aims to launch Vulcan, a program that promises a set of tools to help any organization across dozens of defense agencies adopt modern software development practices. 

“Software development in DOD is something that is critical. And we have seen some changes in the landscape,” Dave Lago, product manager for DISA’s Hosting and Compute Center, told Defense One

One of those changes is that many software development teams are buying and managing their own DevSecOps tools—DISA included. Lago said Project Vulcan is an effort to move away from Balkanized, difficult-to-maintain efforts toward a common set of tools. 

“Let's say you have 100 developers in your agency, and you have 10 or 15 of them maintaining [continuous integration and continuous delivery, or] CI/CD tools, then literally that's 15 percent of your workforce,” he told Defense One. “So there's economies of scale that we need to take advantage of here. And that's basically what this offering is. And another key part of it is that it's bringing tools that everybody knows and loves.”

Among them are project tracking and workflow collaboration tools that are widely used in the commercial sector but far less in the Pentagon, such as the Jira and Confluence. 

Earlier this year, DISA started beta-testing one of Vulcan’s capabilities, a code repository called Enterprise Git Repo that uses the popular GitLab development platform, with about 1,800 users and 2,000 projects across DOD. 

The IT agency plans to open up the full suite of Vulcan’s offerings by the end of January to about 1,000 new pilot users. The tools will first be available within DISA, starting with its Hosting and Compute Center. From there, the plan is to expand across the Fourth Estate.

Lago said he’d like Vulcan to offer more security tools and services as well as other popular collaboration apps like Slack.

Pentagon leaders have been increasingly outspoken about the need to improve how they acquire and build software, whether they buy it, develop it, or tap open source code. 

Lago said awareness around continuous software integration and deployment is not yet where it needs to be. 

“I still think we're in our infancy,” he said during NextGov’s Cloud Summit on Tuesday, “I think a lot of people do continuous integration, but not so many do actual continuous deployment.”

He added: “We’ve got to get into contracts that we expect that these tools are used and we don't want individual programs standing up their own CI/CD tools and the government paying for it twice.”