Applied Decentralization: A large-scale social system for HLS
It's been a few months since I've posted – a very busy and exciting time here at Groove. Both in terms of what's been happening in the business and market, but also because we're closing in on the first beta of Groove V3. I can't wait to tell you about the improvements in V3 … because after having used it day in and day out for a few months now, I've simply never felt nearly this excited about a product that I've worked on. And that says a lot. More on V3 in a few weeks!
For those of you who have been following Groove for quite some time, you may recall that the product's original raison d'être was to enable people “at the edge” to dynamically assemble online into secure virtual workspaces, to work together and to get something done, even if those individuals were in different organizations with completely different IT infrastructure.
Today, with the gracious permission of one of our most significant customers, Groove made an announcement that I'd like to talk about for a moment. It's very significant to me for two reasons: First, the nature of how Groove is being used in this solution demonstrates to the extreme the very reason why Groove was built the way it was, from a technology and architecture perspective. Decentralization at its finest. The customer's core challenge was to enable individuals from many, many different organizations – most of whom had little or no opportunity for training – to rapidly assemble into small virtual teams to selectively share information, make decisions, get the job done, and disassemble. The individuals are geographically dispersed. They use different kinds of networks, behind different organizations' firewalls and management policies. They are very, very highly mobile. And there are few applications where the requirement for deep and effective security is more self-evident.
Groove's press release can be found here.
Why was a decentralized architecture for this network so fundamentally important, and thus why was Groove uniquely suited for the task? This brings me to the second reason that I'm tremendously pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to solving this problem. Larry Lessig taught us that in software-based systems in cyberspace, the code can define outcomes – inadvertently or intentionally – that might have an impact on society. Or better stated in this case, the system's core architectural design principles have a real impact not only on the system's mission effectiveness, but also in how it might effectively preserve and protect rights.
To understand these issues more deeply, one need look no further than the eloquent work released this past December by the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the Information Age, called “Creating a Trusted Network for Homeland Security“.
If you're interested in the “why” of decentralization, read the report. Look at the members of the task force. And take particular note of their proposed SHARE network and its architecture. (Interestingly, Richard Eckel wrote here about it in his blog before he became aware of the details of Groove's involvement with HSIN.)
Lots of stuff here to read, but it's truly fascinating if you are interested in understanding how decentralization and peer-to-peer technology is having a real impact on government and society.
Although so, so many people are involved in this project because of its scope, in particular I'd like to recognize Col. Tom Marenic, Pat Duecy, Ed Manavian, and especially our partner Mike Kushin of ManTech/IDS. My sincere thanks for your leadership, your passion about the mission, and your appreciation for organizational dynamics, social dynamics, technology and architecture in assembling a large and empirically effective system for purposeful social interaction. [Ray Ozzie's Weblog]