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02 28 2019

NATO to offer cloud-based app delivery service to the Alliance

It all began with a problem: delivering applications easily and securely to NATO Nations. The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency wanted to eliminate the need to purchase and burn software to 6,500 DVDs every year.

But the solution, a cloud-based App Store developed in 2016, did much more than bring the Agency's software delivery process into the digital age. The Electronic Definitive Media Library, or EDML as the Agency calls it, is transforming the way the NCI Agency does business by proving that it can use public cloud without compromising on security.

And instead of mailing out software releases on DVDs, the new versions can be accessed any time, from anywhere.

In a few months, EDML will be available for reuse as an individualized, costed service for interested Nations. By buying the service a Nation would be able to create its own version of the App Store, so its staff too can easily, and securely download software or media.

"The foundation of all of this is cloud," said Mariano Valle, a Senior Architect and the Lead on Cloud Architecture in the Service Engineering and Architecture branch of the Agency. "It has been the major driver for all this."

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The App Store drastically reduces the time it takes Nations to access new software. EDML is one part of a two-fold Agency effort to improve applications, and their delivery, called the NCI Agency Software Factory.

Right now there is one version of EDML, which all 29 NATO Nations can access. But in a few months, that will change.

The ultimate goal of EDML 2.0, Valle said, is to offer a multi-tenant service.

"What does that mean, 'multi-tenant service'? In a nutshell it means that I can have different EDMLs for different cases but that do more or less the same thing: uploading and downloading media," Valle said.

Each Nation's data would remain separate.

The Agency would offer support for the App Store.

NATO to offer cloud-based app delivery service to the Alliance

Changing the way the Agency does business

It only took 32 days to build EDML. The Agency embraced commercial cloud and developed the application in an agile way, breaking up the product development into small deliverables that were tested before moving on.

"We fixed a problem, but we understood and embraced digital transformation strategies," said Detlef Janezic, Chief of Service Engineering and Architecture at the NCI Agency. "Because it was kind of an opener for us in terms of the cloud development environment."

Though the application was quick to build, it did take time to get approved, due to security concerns about using the public cloud. But the effort was worth it, Valle said, as it helped the Agency better learn how it could adopt cloud computing technologies.

After going through this experience, other areas of NATO are looking at how they can help change the culture to better embrace cloud computing.

And the NCI Agency is continuing to seek better ways to collaborate with the Nations to give them the technology they need as quickly as possible.

When developing the NATO App Store, Valle noted that the Agency pushed out six releases of it in one year, with a user-experience similar to what you get at home on your smartphone.

But the Agency wants to go even further.

The Agency is exploring partnerships with NATO nations to give them new versions of the software in EDML much, much before they are ready for production.

It would give those Nations an early situational awareness of what software is coming later. They could test whether it would continue to be interoperable with their Nation's systems, and also allow them to line up their roadmap with NATO's.

About NATO's journey to the cloud: This article is part of an ongoing series focused on how the NCI Agency is embracing state-of-the-art cloud computing technologies. The Agency has organized its efforts in this area into a "Cloud Adoption Roadmap" with pragmatic goals to move key services to the cloud to enable reliable, 24/7 service. The Agency, which leads NATO's digital endeavour, is focused on driving technological progress across the Alliance. Such a digital endeavour means examining, of course, everything from NATO's global communications to its applications. The Agency will continue to map out this journey to the cloud in May through a panel discussion at its annual industry conference NITEC19. To learn more, or attend, visit the conference site.