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03 11 2019

The NCI Agency's Software Factory: a new way to collaborate with industry

The NATO Communications and Information Agency is responsible for delivering the latest and greatest technology and services to the Alliance.

To do that, the Agency is piloting a new way to work with the fast-paced tech companies developing NATO's software: the DevTest Platform. Released last year as a part of the NCI Agency Software Factory, this collaborative platform offers those companies a chance to quickly get feedback on what they are developing.

Roughly 200 people from the NCI Agency, industry and Nations are now using the DevTest Platform.

Here's how it works.

When someone in NATO needs new software the Agency will work with them to develop a detailed description of what they need. Companies that could fulfil those needs compete to get the contract.

The company who wins the work typically needs time to prepare the solution for NATO. With the Software Factory, namely its DevTest Platform, there is an established way for NATO and the company to work together as the company builds that solution. It's also a way for NATO and the Nations to test the product before the company is done making it.

The DevTest Platform is hosted in the cloud so that everyone who is authorized can access it. The platform includes infrastructure, compute and storage. On the platform, industry can develop and test new software in small chunks.

The Agency can validate industry partners' work by testing it as it is developed. It makes it easier for companies to get feedback on their work more quickly and make changes.

So far, seven teams working on NATO applications have been migrated to the DevTest Platform, where they can connect on a daily basis.

The platform will speed up the time it takes to develop applications for NATO.

"The idea is develop as small as possible, deliver as quick as possible and fail as fast as possible and recover as fast as possible," said Mariano Valle, a Senior Architect and the Lead on Cloud Architecture in the Service Engineering and Architecture branch of the Agency.

The NCI AgencytmpAmps Software Factory: a new way to collaborate with industry

The platform is also an enabler for smaller businesses to work with NATO on applications, Valle said.

"This new work space could facilitate the collaboration of smaller companies together with bigger companies, together with us," said Detlef Janezic, Chief of Service Engineering and Architecture at the NCI Agency.

NATO's contracts for large software projects, like those for physical infrastructure, focus on asking for one big, specific deliverable. That methodology makes sense for what it was originally designed for: something of more physical permanence like a building or runway, but not for software applications.

But NATO is in the process of changing the way it contracts for software to make it easier for industry to incorporate new technologies into a project as it works on it. NATO also wants to help industry deliver software in small increments, so NATO and the Nations can test it as it is developed.

NATO wants to harness commercial innovation and reflect the fast pace of the technology industry, and the Software Factory is helping NATO undergo its digital transformation.

"There is a big push by Nations to NATO so that the procurement policies might be changed and adapted to this new way of doing business," Valle said.

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 event website.

Miss our story about the other part of the NCI Agency's Software Factory? Read all about the NATO App Store here.

Also, read more about NATO Community Development (NCoDe).

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