DoD Fights For a Datacenter Network It Can Defend

Plenty of datacenter and network managers complain about the headaches of consolidating datacenter operations into a single group, or ceding some level of control over their regional datacenter to visitors from Corporate with no idea how things are done on a tactical level.

However tough the technical or organizational challenges, however, few global organizations are ever faced with the need to peacefully unify decades worth of silo’ed IT infrastructure from several large, globally distributed organizational divisions, each with its own datacenters, networks… and firepower.

Though often contentious, the half-decade-long effort to integrate networks, datacenters and digital security architectures of the four major U.S. military services has not broken out into open conflict. Peace was declared early in the process, but “peace” doesn’t really cover whose datacenters will survive, whose networks will be converted to something better, or who will coordinate either the change or the ongoing security and operations of a global network designed as much to carry targeting information to shooters in the field as to rocket email updates to Pentagon softball teams.

In Stuttgart, Germany, the Defense Information Services Agency (DISA) has cut the ribbon on its first Enterprise Operations Center, from which it will launch what DISA leaders called the largest restructuring of information technology management” in the history of the Department of Defense.

The new global Joint Information Environment (JIE) marks a “fundamental shift in how the DoD will operate and defend the DOD Information Network for years to come,” according to a statement from Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., director of the Defense Information Services Agency (DISA).

DISA actually flipped the switch on the first segment of the new global Joint Information Environment (JIE) July 31 at a military Enterprise Operations Center in Stuttgart, Germany. The ribbon-cutting and official announcement came August 5.

The JIE itself will consist of a series of Enterprise Operations Centers (EOC) in strategic locations around the world, each of which is responsible for monitoring, maintaining and securing varied segments of network maintained by each of the four major services, verifying their security and connecting those segments to a unified global DoD backbone network known as the DoD Information Network.

JIE’s role is evolutionary rather than integrative, however. As it links existing networks from DoD organizations in various parts of the world, it will provide centralized security and data services, in addition to connecting and protecting core DoD data centers. Once established, JIE’s network of EOCs will also take on primary responsibility for network security and defense for all U.S. military services.

JIE will also be the network entity through which real-time satellite data and other intelligence reaches commanders in the field for both physical and digital defensive operations, according to the DISA statement.

Until now the JIE has existed more as a negotiated settlement among the IT divisions of various services than a separate system or network itself. The push to consolidate major networking functions for all the services within one group had to overcome the divisive competition among services and directly buck the current situation in which each service’s IT capabilities functioned as datacenter “franchises” competing for specific security or communications work.

Putting DISA in charge of a single network with orders to unify the others, in fact, prompted one DISA official speaking at a military conference in May to explain that JIE is “not about DISA controlling the world, DISA uber alles,” according to Tony Montemarano, DISA director of strategic planning and information, in a story run on FiercegGovernmentIT.

It will be a core part of a consolidation due to reduce the DoD’s datacenter count from 1,850 to between 50 and 100, largely by eliminating resource redundancies.

JIE does have specific goals: to create a globally accessible, secure network that reaches from headquarters all the way to field troops; to incorporate some of the infrastructure of each service but maintain the same look and feel for all of them; to allow sharing and collaboration, data sharing and analytics among services; and to save DoD money by minimizing the amount of networking hardware and services it has to buy and focus on protecting the data it carries rather than just transporting it.

The details of what it will be and how it will get there are still a little fuzzy—or were in May, at least, when the DoD’s deputy CIO David L. Devries called JIE an “end state” rather than a technology. “The warfighter needs to have the mission accomplished and to be successful, he needs to have the information there,” Devries said in a DoD story covering his speech at a defense conference.

The end state—in which real-time intelligence can be streamed directly to field commanders in ways it can be used in combat—can’t be achieved without streamlining data-delivery processes, reducing redundant facilities and replacing or updating legacy networks—all of which takes time, he said.

The end result will be a leaner global network that is faster because it reduces the latency inherent in travelling among connected systems, easier to secure because its architecture is visible, and consistent and more cost efficient because it puts requirements and resources in one entity rather than several for each service.

JIE is expected to roll out as a series of EOCs, each of which extends its monitoring, management and security capabilities over specific areas of existing DoD networks, which will become more closely integrated and more similar in architecture, security and technology over time, according to DISA.

 

Image: DoD

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