Best of 2021 – U.S. Army to Build Software Factory Atop VMware Tanzu

As we close out 2021, we at Container Journal wanted to highlight the most popular articles of the year. Following is the seventeenth in our series of the Best of 2021.

The U.S Army Futures Command, in collaboration with VMware, is building a software factory in Austin, Texas based on the Tanzu distribution of Kubernetes made available by VMware.

Ajay Patel, general manager for the modern applications business unit at VMware, says the goal is to enable the U.S. Army to create the equivalent of a Silicon Valley software company inside the Army that will be staffed by civilians and soldiers recruited from posts around the world. For each of the next five years the U.S. Army will select 30 soldiers and civilians to enter the program every six months.

The U.S. Army, via this program, expects to increase the rate at which software can be built by embracing DevOps best practices to build cloud-native applications in collaboration with experts from VMware Tanzu Labs, adds Patel.

The Army Software Factory represents an evolution of an existing VMware-enabled Government Software Factory concept that is being employed by other U.S. agencies, notes Patel. Other agencies working with VMware Tanzu Labs to modernize application development and deployment include the U.S. Space Force.

Much like many enterprise IT organizations that have embraced the concept of a software factory to accelerate application development and deployment, Patel says the U.S Army Futures Command recognizes that traditional waterfall-based approaches to building applications are too slow to meet its needs. In effect, the U.S, Army Futures Command will be at the forefront of digital business transformation initiatives.

In fact, the U.S. Army, for all intents and purposes, is now another software company that happens to do other things in addition to building application software. That ‘other thing’ just happens to employ millions of soldiers and civilians. Just like any enterprise IT organization, Patel says that shift – in addition to creating a need for new tools and platforms – will also require significant cultural changes within the U.S. Army’s IT organizations. Each member of the software factory assigned by the U.S Army Futures Command will be paired with an expert from VMware Tanzu Labs to help facilitate that transition.

It may take the U.S. Army a little while to become a true software company, but Patel notes the program will also serve as a model for other military agencies around the world that continue to rely on legacy processes and platforms to build applications. Some of those military agencies may be even further down the path toward employing a software factory model than the U.S. Army.

Of course, as organizations adopt cloud-native platforms to build and deploy more flexible and resilient applications based on microservices, the need for a factory approach to building software becomes more apparent. The challenge, of course, is two-fold; The first is enabling developers to remain creative with that factory setting. The second is finding a way to manage a much more complex portfolio of applications that has many more dependencies than traditional monolithic applications. One way or another, the U.S. Army now appears ready to accept that new mission.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

Mike Vizard has 1600 posts and counting. See all posts by Mike Vizard