Defence to trial next gen desktops

Government delivers "first pass approval" to department six months late

The Department of Defence will pilot its next-generation desktop projects in coming months, after receiving “first pass approval” from the Government for the project, six months after initial plans to go to tender.

The project, first flagged in April last year, is expected to allow 15,000 of the agency’s 75,000-strong user base to access systems classified as “restricted” and “secret” under current security clearances on a single desktop, rather than two separate machines as is currently practice. The department has looked to deploy thin clients over other virtualisation options, and in October shortlisted Raytheon, BAE Systems, Thales and HP as potential bidders for the final tender.

While initially ahead of schedule, Defence CTO, Matt Yannopoulos, last year told Computerworld Australia that government approval of the tender had the potential to slow down the tender process. While the department had initially hoped to go to final tender and initiate pilots before the end of last year, it only last week received the first of two approval passes from Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon.

“This project will have positive industry outcomes, and also reduce energy consumption in Defence,” Snowdon said in a statement. “Investment in Information Technology reform is critical to Defence.”

The approval will allow the department to proceed with both the tender and pilots on both a Defence frigate for 500 users, and a forward operating theatre. The thin client data and applications will be hosted in several data centres, but will have an "offline mode" for roaming users. A spokesperson for the department’s CIO group refused to detail which vendors would be involved in the pilot.

Yannopoulos has championed the view of a single information environment within the organisation, in which the “difference between a mobile and fixed environment is hopefully just the location”. As well as the next generation desktops, the CTO hopes to implement a new network architecture for defence forces and implement wider security without compromising ease of use.

The deployment is part of a wider reform worth $940 million that aims to save $1.9 billion of ICT spending over the next 10 years. Other aspects of the reform include the consolidation of 200 data centres to 10 and consolidating telecommunications providers under its $500 million Battlespace Communications Systems Project. Defence has also flagged a review of its social media policy, following alleged misconduct from several cadets.

However, Defence is expected to be one of the hardest hit Federal Government departments in this week’s budget, with confirmation the department will axe 1000 jobs in hopes of delivering $300 million worth of savings over three years.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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