Vulcan to be the glue to connect DISA’s digital transformation tools together

Dave Lago, a product manager for DISA's Hosting and Compute Center, said the Vulcan tool set includes several commercial software capabilities to help DoD moder...

The Defense Information Systems Agency’s Vulcan platform isn’t another software factory for the military services and defense agencies.

Rather, DISA is providing an agile product planning tool using commercial software and lowering the barriers to entry for Department of Defense (DoD) customers to use these tools.

Dave Lago, a product manager for DISA’s Hosting and Compute Center, said Vulcan, combined with other DISA services, can help DoD customers more easily modernize systems and applications.

“Vulcan consists of DevSecOps tools, offered as software-as-a-service (SaaS) at DoD impact level five to support software development and automation projects across DISA,” Lago said on Ask the CIO. “As important as software modernization is for DoD and DevSecOps is, and we’ve been talking about this for seven or eight years, now, these tools still are not as widely available as we think they are across DoD. Case in point, take an agile planning tool, JIRA comes to mind. These are super mainstream in commercial industry. I’d guess, maybe 80% of commercial software projects are using some type of agile project planning tool. What’s that equivalent number in the Department of Defense? I don’t know, but I still see a lot of waterfall and traditional integrated master schedules. I don’t see a lot of agile product planning in use in the mainstream DoD.”

Lago said he’d guess the use of agile planning tools to be closer to 10% across DoD.

This is why DISA launched Vulcan in October to provide low-cost, easy to access agile tools.

Not another software factory

Lago also is quick to point out that Vulcan isn’t a software factory or even a platform for development.

“We’re not going to host your applications or your workloads. We would just be the assembly line, so a big, big differentiator there,” he said. “The way we extract value from the other platforms [like the Air Force’s Platform One] and cooperate with them is by sharing things. We’re using the Air Force’s big bang baseline [a hardened continuous delivery tool]. We spent a lot of time talking to the different software factories that are out there.”

Lago said DISA prefers to think of Vulcan as the “glue” that connects the Hosting and Compute Center (HaCC’s) portfolio of offerings to include Stratus, the DoD private cloud, the containers platform and, of course, the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) vehicle.

In the short time since launch, Vulcan has more than 1,900 users from across DoD. It consists of four tools:, their minimal viable product (MVP) enterprisewide code repository; JIRA, the agile planning tool, Confluence, the workspace collaboration tool and GitLab premium, to a DevSecOps pipeline.

“The most cost effective way to do this is to consume SaaS directly from the cloud provider, but in some cases, they haven’t completed all their FedRAMP and DISA authorizations and other compliance requirements. So this meets that need in the interim,” Lago said. “We built this using DoD cloud infrastructure-as-code and the tools that are out there to be as efficient as possible. We’re standing up DevSecOps tools and we’re going to follow DevSecOps processes. I think that is a big story and a big win.”

Automation, containerization too

DISA continues to educate and spread the word around what Vulcan is and what services it provides.

Lago said DISA will charge users on a per seat basis and he expects most users to be part of small teams who are using Vulcan for specific applications or mission sets.

DISA also plans on adding more commercial tools to Vulcan, taking advantage of containerization and automation tools in the future.

Lago said the end goal with Vulcan, and really all of DISA’s offerings, is to change the way DoD modernizes applications and software.

“That’s really what would Vulcan is all about, is putting these tools in the hands of our broader development community,” he said. “We have a Strategic Action Plan that you can go on website and learn all about that. As part of that transformation, we definitely fit in on the efficiency of being able to deploy capabilities faster, the automation piece so those are the big pictures there. And this is something that is going to go in HACC portfolio and just be another accelerator for adoption and help customers modernize their software.”


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