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Air Force to Adopt Thin Clients?

The Air Force has just released a Request for Information (RFI) to support new client architectures for the years 2014 and beyond. The purpose is to explore a zero/thin-client solution for the Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet) as well as the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet).

The new architecture would be managed at the enterprise level rather than the base level. This solution would include all server hardware, client hardware, server/network-based storage, profile management capability, and zero/thin-client hardware.

The goal is to enable users to access AF desktop-like capabilities through any device, to include commercial mobile devices. This would eliminate the need for storage of classified hard drives at the client location. The following is a partial list of required features:

1. Two-factor access would be accomplished through NIPRNet Common Access Card or SIPRNet access via Smart Card (SIPRNet Token, 3.5 volt). Access would be possible from any military base or any data network that uses approved DoD/NSA Smart Card Readers.
2. System will support up to 1,000,000 NIPRNet users across the globe at 100+ bases. It will support up to 220,000 users on SIPRNet across the globe.
3. System will support up to 700,000 concurrent users on NIPRNet and up to 75,000 concurrent users on SIPRNet.
4. Clean desktop will be presented to user each time they log in.
5. Existing desktop systems (fat clients) will be supported until hardware can be refreshed through a zero client.
6. Central management of USB port will be included.
7. All support servers will be managed at the enterprise level.

The new RFI is a correct first step for starting migration towards enterprise computing. It is a good approach how to start with transformation of the DoD architecture. Thin client computing is a prerequisite for making large improvements in information security while realizing large savings in operating costs.

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