Operations Specialist’s 3rd Class Joseph Quintana, left, Sara Hacket, center, and Operations Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Archermonitor Global Command Control Systems in the Combat Direction Center aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. 

Apr 16 2019

The Navy Envisions a New Kind of Network

Network as a Service testing moves forward amid DOD cloud developments.

Looking to overhaul its network, the Navy is exploring Network as a Service as a way to migrate its network communication, information and services to the cloud for faster, more flexible and more secure operations.

The Navy allocated $96 million last fall to test whether NaaS is an efficient and cost-effective way to move the entirety of its network to the cloud and conduct all functions via a secure virtual network, a plan it’s calling Modern Service Delivery.

While there are many forms of NaaS, its fundamental purpose is to enable agencies to purchase cloud-based networking services on demand, leading to flexibility in provisioning and fewer resources spent on hands-on network management. 

“We must be willing to let go of old processes that keep us from moving ahead," said Navy Cyber Security Division Director Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, in a press release announcing the plan. "This … will be an important tool to accelerate Navy cloud adoption, allowing us to tap into the capabilities, processes, and skills being used in commercial industry today.”


New Networks Should Give Navy Users Better Access

Navy personnel have been using the same network architecture — managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency — since the early 2000s and are looking for more flexibility. Currently, users who are using mobile devices or who are away from their bases must log into an on-premises network to be routed to the data and applications they need. With NaaS, the Navy believes that users will have easier access to the services and information they need, no matter their location. 

“We want to drive parity for access to services and systems and data, whether we are at work, at home or on the go,” said Andrew Tash, technical director for the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, speaking at the West Coast meeting of the Navy CIO’s annual conference, as reported by Federal News Network.

The department has established a Commercial Cloud Services Project office, putting it in line with the Defense Department’s new cloud strategy, which encourages a multicloud ecosystem. The office is designed to help the Navy access commercial cloud solutions faster.

The Navy has already begun migrating some of its major services to the cloud, including its enterprise resource system and personnel database, reports Federal News Network.

“If all of our business systems are moving to commercial cloud, then shouldn’t we have the most efficient connectivity to the commercial cloud?” Tash said at the conference. “We look at the business systems as being the primary opportunity right now to leverage things like Network as a Service.”

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how the Marine Corps will partner with San Diego to promote a smart city vision.

Cloud Migration Will Merge with JEDI at a Later Date

As the Navy moves to migrate its own services to the cloud, the Defense Department is working on a project that will affect whatever its individual services do. 

Although its cloud strategy document reports that the DOD will be using multiple clouds, the primary cloud environment will be the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure architecture, a commercial project assigned to a single cloud provider that could be worth $10 billion over 10 years.

The project award has been delayed by investigations into possible conflicts of interest as well as lawsuits, but the DOD recently narrowed the candidates down to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, reports Bloomberg.

The DOD wants its agencies to move general-purpose functions and applications to JEDI once it’s ready, and to use other cloud environments only with special permission. 

“JEDI doesn’t exist yet,” said Jared Serbu, deputy editor of Federal News Network, on the network’s Federal Drive podcast. “Once [JEDI] is up and running, whenever that is, they will then transition those applications.”

That two-step migration may be more complex, but once the Navy’s systems are already in the cloud, Serbu said, “it’s obviously easier to migrate from a cloud service to a cloud service.”

Ruth Youngs Lew, the Navy’s program executive officer for enterprise information systems, says that the current cloud contracts are intermediate steps. “Our plan is to fully transition to JEDI at some point in the future, when they get it awarded,” she tells Federal News Network.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Discover why the DOD wants to consolidate the networks of its “fourth estate.”

Cloud Prototype Building and Testing Is Underway

The Navy’s PEO EIS team is developing network prototypes this spring. A consortium of industry leaders, startups and academics called the Information Warfare Research Project is collaborating with the Navy to modernize its information technology and manage the bidding process. The commercial cloud services providers and telecommunications firms selected by the IWRP will develop a cloud-based network to determine whether CSPs can provide faster and more reliable service than DISA.

Will Stephens, business and technology strategist for PEO EIS, tells Federal News Network that thorough testing is needed to best optimize the network. 

“We have a lot of decisions to make in the Department of Navy with respect to network architecture, and many of those decisions are based on assumptions, not on quantitative information about performance,” Stephens said.

NaaS and the current DISA architecture will compete head-to-head, he said.

“We’ll have two network paths from that point of presence: one across our current network path, and one across the new network path that we’re setting up as part of this Network as a Service architecture,” said Stephens. 

Both solutions will be evaluated according to key metrics, such as network performance, WAN provisioning speed, connection speed, security, scalability and cost

Officials plan to award the contract by the end of April and have a working prototype by July 26.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Richard R. Waite/Wikimedia Commons

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.