DISA director praises agency’s adoption of cloud and agile development

DISA's Sharon Woods shares how the agile methodology allows the organization to deliver on projects in six months and upskill the workforce.
Lynn Martin, Google Cloud and Sharon Woods, DISA

By shifting to a hybrid cloud environment, the Department of Defense is gaining more flexibility in how it strategically delivers capabilities to the warfighter, said Sharon Woods, Director of the Hosting and Compute Center for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

Woods spoke about how DISA is leading transformational innovation for DOD customers during FedTalks in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 24, 2022. The conversation — moderated by Lynn Martin, vice president for Google Public Sector — touched on how DISA is developing innovative solutions using cloud technology and introducing agile development to speed the delivery of their projects.

“One of our mantras is not to undertake a project unless we can deliver it in less than six months,” explained Woods.

One example of a project delivered in that time frame involved moving Kubernetes containers into the data centers that can support cloud-native applications. DISA has many customers operating in data centers, according to Woods, and they need to be given “an opportunity to incorporate modern technology and advance.”

“When [organizations] are in the cloud and they’re using containers, you’ve just opened up a ton of opportunities for interoperability and to transfer data in a very different way,” said Woods and it “eliminates the need to develop custom solutions.”

Taking an agile approach also provides opportunities to upskill the workforce and develop what she referred to as the “technician of the future.”

“[Because] the technology is hybrid, you have to make your workforce hybrid” and give them an opportunity to learn new skills, she explained.

Her department strategically groups cloud specialists, who are more versed in agile development and Kubernetes, together with the more traditional data center workforce. Together, they are given a very specific scope of web servers to modernize and are able to collectively upskill.

While the stories of success are slowly emerging, Woods said one of the biggest challenges is “the total disbelief” within the DOD that an organization can deliver a minimal viable product (MVP) in less than six months.

“The concept of a six-month MVP is really uncomfortable. But folks have to embrace that discomfort and it takes some leadership [and] a team coming together and doing something unexpected,” explained Woods.

Despite the cultural challenges, DISA’s mission is to steward hosting and compute centers and deliver best value to the warfighter. Therefore, said Woods “the mantra of disruptive transformation is critical to that mission.”

“That’s really where we are right now — breaking the mold and trying to think about things differently,” she said.

Following the discussion on stage, Martin shared her reaction to the conversation with Woods.

“It is great to see DISA leading the way on hybrid cloud in an agile manner across the DOD. My advice to other agency leaders who want to maximize cloud opportunities is to adopt hybrid cloud leveraging agile methodologies,” she said.

Watch the full discussion on the FedTalks On Demand page. This article was produced by Scoop News Group for FedScoop and underwritten by Google Cloud.

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