By Bob Gourley
Government technologists have always been under pressure to make engineering choices that are efficient and effective. They must support demanding missions under resource constraints and this is one of the reason government technologists like seeing proof that something works before investing in it. Demonstrations, prototypes and proof of concepts are important in the federal space.
One of the more interesting demonstration environments is the AFCEA “PlugFest” that occurred at the AFCEA West conference in January 2013. This is a live, unscripted demo where teams of technologists compete and demonstrate their ability to support RI2P (Rapid Integration Innovation Process). Firms participating in this activity demonstrated capabilities that work in realistic enterprise environments. The winner, which demonstrated an incredibly virtuous ability to support DoD enterprise apps (both legacy apps which need modernization and new projects which need fielding) is Terracotta, who won because of their powerful new capabilities in in-memory management.
A government, industry and academic team of judges selected Terracotta as the winner based on their ability to quickly provide a software application that solved a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) use case problem, leveraged the specified technology stack, and collaborated with other challengers. The team demonstrated a Rapid Integration Innovation Process (RI2P) to government decision makers’ using a the provided HADR use-case that featured analyzing real-time streaming data from multiple sources and formats, while performing predictive analytics and complex event processing in memory to a Geospatial enabled “COP” dashboard and by demonstrating the ability to work with messaging to bandwidth constrained environments. The solution demonstrated Terracotta’s ability to solve government information sharing, analysis and Big Data problems using leveraging off-the-shelf capabilities assembled according to commercial open standards.
Here is more on the award from the AFCEA West website:
PlugFest is a dynamic area on the exhibit floor that highlights the Rapid Integration Innovation Process (RI2P) and demonstrates to government decision makers’ the best practices when sourcing open standard solutions. Industry, academia, and government will have an opportunity to showcase their collaborate efforts to solve use cases in a competitive environment using the RI2P approach at West 2013 in San Diego, January 29-31.
A plug fest is a demonstration of IT interoperability using pre-integrated standards based components, from a variety of providers, which run in open standards based run-time environments across a particular enterprise – – a Rapid Innovation Integration Platform. First, government, industry and/or academia subject matter experts (SMEs) develop the use cases. Second, the Plugfest Steering Committee publishes use cases, software development kits (SDK), incentives, and terms of competition. Third, technology providers (i.e., industry) collaborate with the SMEs to improve the use cases and identify technology solutions. Fourth, challengers (e.g., web/mobile application developers) collaborate to obtain the updated use cases and technology solutions to develop and implement interface RI2P solutions at the PlugFest Competition event. Lastly, government, industry and academic judges rank each challenger’s solutions and select a winner based on their ability to provide a software application that solves the use cases’ problem, leverages the technology stack, and collaborates with other challengers.
The Multi-Agency Collaboration Environment (MACE) and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) synergized to form the Special interest Group (SIG), with the mission to (1) design and continuously refine the Rapid Integration Innovation Process (RI2P); and (2) market RI2P via “PlugFest” to solve government information sharing problems.
PlugFest’s goals include, but are not limited to: 1) apply RI2P industrial best practices (agile, open standard, SOA, cloud, etc.) for enterprise information system development and deployment, as informed by the realistic constraints of the US government requirements and bureaucracy, 2) achieve the government’s requirements by leveraging off-the-shelf capabilities assembled according to commercial open standards and best practices, and 3) design a persistent, evolving Rapid Integration Innovation.
Opportunity to associate company’s brand with demonstrated collaborative agile development within a government-sanctioned environment. Eventually, government aims to use process similar to PlugFest for source selection. At minimum, potential future business opportunities will likely emerge as a result of demonstrated interoperability solutions. Gain insight into government’s problems and needed solutions. Technology providers have the opportunity to integrate and learn from industry partners and experts. Technology providers have the opportunity to share their solutions and skills with Government leadership in the booth. Opens the opportunity for small and large businesses to network with each other, the government, industry and academia.
The three 2012 AFCEA PlugFest events were successful on at least two levels: (1) capability assembled quickly, at no cost to the government, via open standards and agile methods, demonstrated value measured against critical use cases; and (2) the number of vendors participating and contributing pro bono resources to the RI2P SIG steadily increased after each event.