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By J. Nicholas Hoover
February 24, 2011
After several years in the making and two releases, the National
Security Agency is winding down new development of its secure client
virtualization framework, the High Assurance Platform (HAP).
At HAP's inception, NSA wanted an integrated, networked framework of
virtualization and security technology, but the market had yet to
deliver one. So NSA set out to piece together the disparate hardware and
software that commercial vendors had already placed on the market. "We
saw all of these things," Neil Kittleson, the commercial solutions
center's trusted computing portfolio manager, said in an interview. "And
we saw the need to create custom policy around it to get them all to
work in parallel."
Historically, intelligence agencies have used different computers for
working with differing levels of classified data, but HAP allows
multiple security levels -- from unclassified to top secret -- to
operate on the same machine. HAP is managed by NSA's commercial
solutions center, a group focused on engaging industry. The intent of
the six-year-old program was to leverage purely commercial technologies,
rather than relying on custom code and products designed specifically
for government, as was long the norm for the intelligence community.
The HAP program was intended to push both NSA's tech boundaries and the
industry's own virtualization and security offerings. This close work
with vendors is central to the commercial solutions center's broader
mission. For example, the office has an outreach element that has
vendors come in and talk about emerging capabilities. "We want to know
where they're going, understand that, and help influence development,"
Mike Lamont, chief of the NSA's network solutions office, said in an
interview. Vendors of products being used in the HAP project include
IBM, VMware, Wave Systems, and others.
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