Naval Information Warfare Center wants to ‘push the envelope’ on managed services

Managed services is helping federal agencies simplify operations and have more predictable. One agency contracting with a vendor to deliver ongoing functional requirements is the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic.

Teri-Lee Holland, division head for data center and cloud hosting services, performs engineering work for sailors, including cloud hosting services for payroll and HR systems. Her office provides managed services — through industry partners — that mission owners or application owners use, rather than each of our individual application owners providing those services to themselves.

“So let’s just take something very basic, like scanning our environments: Instead of each of our mission owners scanning their individual environments, we scan across the full environment, and can provide those scan results not only to our mission owners, but up to [U.S.] Fleet [Cyber Command], so that they can see across the complete infrastructure,” she said on Federal Monthly Insights — Digital Modernization (Managed Services).

There are advantages and challenges to the Navy using the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC), the former being that Holland’s office can reduce the amount of time and resources needed to scan the environment. For example, if each application owner had its own scanner for 100 systems, that would require 200 full-time employees and 200 servers to have a scanner attached.

“We’ve reduced that to, let’s just estimate 10 FTEs across the 100 applications, and then a minimal number of servers to host the scanners so that we can scan the full environment,” she said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “You’re really reducing and pooling those resources together. And those resources are reachable using our incident response process, so our mission owners can submit a ticket and say, ‘I need a scan.’ And then we have a team of people that go for that.”

NIWC Atlantic encompasses a workforce of more than 9,000 Defense Department civilians, military and industry partners. It takes data centers in Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, and a disaster recovery site in Kansas City — although these days, Holland said the workforce is scattered across the country.

Her office bundles all of its services to mission and application owners with a single bill, similar to a cell phone bill, and customers can add or remove services as they need. NIWC Atlantic is not the only managed services provider across the Navy, but making those platforms more widely available does drive down costs for mission owners, Holland said.

Since NIWC Atlantic began piloting cloud infrastructure in 2016, their processes across the Department of the Navy and Defense Department have matured to bring cloud-native managed services to application owners. Holland is excited to see what is ahead: namely, more collaboration to take advantage of managed services.

“The advantage of using cloud native is they’ve pretty much automated everything that they can, and they continue to work in automation,” she said. “We are still providing very manual managed services. That’s kind of the nature of the requirement that we have on policy, and that’s a constant discussion that we’re having with officials across the Navy and DoD is how do we meet the same policy we’re charged with meeting, but in an automated way?”

Automation and the services already put into cloud regions are less competitive for NIWC Atlantic because those are only the services that the agency can utilize. But services which are not yet automated — that’s where Holland said her office specializes, where they can get the information the Navy and Fleet Cyber Command need to ensure security of the network. The migrations for data center consolidation in 2011 and 2012 were some such examples of manual processes.

“And right now, one of the things that we are looking into is how do we automate as much as we can to move systems from an on premise, legacy data center environment into the cloud,” she said. “But not just to lift and shift; we want to be innovative and say, ‘How do we do that so they can really take advantage of what the cloud offers?’ And so those discussions, those pilot efforts are underway, and we’re really excited to be hopefully pushing the envelope there.”

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