On Monday of this week, Microsoft and ESRI announced the Fusion Core Solution, a solution architecture to strengthen the ability of government agencies to prepare, assess, and respond to threats of national security as well as natural disasters.
In an interview with CivSource, Microsoft officials explained the design and functionality of Fusion Core Solution, including how the company is looking to encourage current users to expand and share the solution with other fusion centers.
“There’s no silver bullet,” Joe Rozek, Executive Director of Micosoft’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism group, said. “The Federal government had reams of policy, but no architectural design for how the nation’s fusion centers needed to collect and use information.”
Another problem was that most fusion centers don’t have the financial stability to invest in robust, interoperable solutions.
“A lot of fusion centers don’t have a unified architecture or road map,” added Dave Stampfli, a Technical Architect at Microsoft who worked on the Solution. “A lot of their [technology infrastructure] is driven by procurement cycles – they get grant money and buy products.”
According to Mr. Rozek the government was dealing with an asymmetrical threat and Microsoft knew they needed to develop a solution that allowed collaboration in a trusted environment, across horizontal and vertical organizations.
“We knew [the solution would] not be something you put on a CD, not something that’s developed in a vacuum. Fusion Core Solution is operator developed with analyst-driven requirements,” Mr. Rozek said.
After looking at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice guidelines, Microsoft identified three core functions a fusion center needed to have: 1) the ability to intake massive amounts of information and data, 2) a way to distill the information for analysis and 3) a sharing mechanism for the timely dissemination of critical intelligence.
“Our fusion centers are taking in a lot of information from disparate sources, virtual and physical. Fusion Center Solution connects the dots…its meant to be a solution for the entire public safety industry,” Mr. Rozek said.
Sharing the fusion center framework
Fusion Core Solution combines the capabilities of ESRI ArcGIS and Office SharePoint Server, which enables the ability to securely share data visually.
“Our approach was to take Sharepoint and identify ways operators could use SharePoint for the foundation of the fusion center,” said Mr. Stampfli. With ESRI, we have better integration between GIS and SharePoint – which has led to an interest [in Fusion Core Solution] from a large cross-section of users.”
“The [Fusion Core] Solution is also a set of IT practices for the public safety marketplace, it’s a fusion framework.”
Andy Pitman, Industry Manager at Microsoft said Fusion Core Solution is intellectual property, “but we’re giving that away. The Fusion Core Solution custom code will be released on Microsoft’s CodePlex Site and freely licensed under that site’s terms. We’re encouraging customers to extend and share that code with other fusion centers.”
A formal announcement is expected this Fall, following a pilot program expected to begin in August. After the 90-day trial period, Mr. Pitman said, the code will be updated and then placed on CodePlex.
So far, Microsoft is working with three statewide fusion centers and a project is under way with the city of Los Angeles, California, Mr. Rozek said.
“We think Fusion Core Solution will take the fusion center to the next level.”