By Jacob Kriss, CECOM Public AffairsJanuary 31, 2020
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. -- Stovepiped systems. Disconnected, duplicative tool sets. Inefficient processes. Sound familiar? Anyone working in an advanced technology field such as software development has likely run up against these roadblocks.
In the Army, with software running more and more of the advanced equipment Soldiers need to be successful, such problems can limit software readiness and put lives in danger. So the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command Software Engineering Center is taking on the challenge with an ambitious initiative known as the Software Engineering Environment, or SE2. It is set to revolutionize how the SEC equips and empowers its project teams.
Across dozens of labs and using numerous tools, SEC experts maintain, upgrade and cyber-harden hundreds of Army software systems long after they are first released. But given the huge scale of that task, the SE2 is critically needed to improve efficiency, code quality and collaboration.
"The SE2 is designed as a collection of tools with overlapping capabilities that you can mix, match, plug and play for what works best for your project," said Dan Andrew, the original SE2 architect.
It is also built as a business data warehouse that can help in predicting, planning and decision making while reducing costs such as software licenses, Andrew said. Project teams have the option to log in remotely to develop in the SE2, or simply pull out the specific tools they need.
A TEAM SPORT
The project began to gather steam in 2017, when the SEC connected its Services Directorate workstations to the Defense Research and Engineering Network. This laid the foundation for project teams to work in the SE2 via connected labs. Meanwhile, the team built out the core service capability, including adding the Atlassian suite of tools for product documentation, management and source control while improving the developer desktop.
Today the SE2 team tackles development, integration, sustainment and services. One of their major initiatives is enhancing the service desk, through which developers can submit trouble tickets and receive resources and instructions on how to address their specific challenges.
By the end of fiscal year 2020, the SE2 aims to create a "DevSecOps" environment across the SEC, or one in which software updates are continuously integrated and delivered with security at the forefront. A key security advantage is that because needed tools are inside the SE2, when developers fully use the environment their code never needs to transit network connections.
SE2 also gives project teams ownership over their development, according to current technical lead Mike Mansell.
"We supply the tools and do the baseline configuration management, but if teams need a certain tool like BitBucket, Jira or Confluence to work in a certain way, they can do it themselves," he said. "That's a big change from the way things are usually done."
Many teams use these same tools, but in disintegrated architectures, Andrew noted. With SE2, they have a linked, well-controlled, secure, single sign-on environment.
"That's one of the underappreciated excellences of the SE2," he said. "Once people start to use it, they say, "Holy cow, this works well!'"
Today more than 50 programs and systems have migrated to the SE2, including the family of software-defined radios known as the Joint Tactical Terminal and a number of SEC business applications.
CREATING A CULTURE
Still, getting more project teams to use SE2 requires greater awareness and a change in thinking across the SEC.
"These tools are set up to be different, and not everyone will use them in the same way," Andrew said. "It's not just, write the standard operating procedures and follow the steps."
To foster SE2 use, the team has set up monthly user community meetings to share upcoming developments and gather feedback.
SEC employees interested in learning more about the SE2 can visit the wiki page at https://cecom.aep.army.mil/sites/SEC-SVCS/SE2_Project/Wiki/Pages/SE2WikiHome.aspx (CAC required).