Joel Dolisy Solar Winds


The Army's march forward means letting go of the past

Not to be outdone in the race for federal network modernization, the Army earlier this year issued the Army Network Campaign Plan (ANCP). Created by Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell, the Army’s CIO, the ANCP “outlines current efforts that posture the Army for success in a cloud-based world” and provides “the vision and direction that set conditions for and lay a path to Network 2020 and beyond.”

These broad and bold statements encompass several things. First, there’s the Army’s desire to create a network that aligns with DISA’s Joint Information Environment (JIE) and the Defense Department’s modernization goals, which include better insight into what’s happening within its networks and tighter security postures. Second, there’s the pressing need to vastly improve the services the Army is able to deliver to personnel, including, as outlined in the ANCP, everything from “lighter, more mobile command posts to austere environments that will securely connect the network and access information.”

There’s also the desire to simply streamline operations and reduce costs. Every federal IT manager’s budget is under a microscope, and it’s no longer feasible to have different teams working on overlapping or redundant tasks. Beyond the fact that this approach inhibits operational efficiency, it also impacts costs; defense agencies literally can no longer afford to purchase separate solutions for security and operations teams. Today, they need a single solution with dual use that can handle both operational and security requirements.

How unifying operations and security fits into the ANCP

The need for greater agility outlined in the ANCP dictates that operations and security teams become more integrated and unified. The responsibilities of one can have a great impact on the other. For example, a network manager will have a good grasp of the types of devices that are impacting network traffic, and those devices—laptops, tablets, mobile technologies, and more—could have a direct effect on network security. Working together, cybersecurity and operations teams can share common intelligence that can help them more quickly respond to threats and other network problems.

Similarly, the solutions that managers use to monitor the health and security of their networks should offer a combination of features that address the needs of this combined team. As such, many of today’s network monitoring tools not only report on the overall performance of the network, but also provide indications of potential security threats and remediation options. For example, they may offer device and user tracking along with their performance analysis. This can help pinpoint the cause of a network outage and provide built in remediation actions – or prevent such an event from occurring.

Why letting go of the past is critical to ANCP’s success

Combing operations and security teams is a new concept for many organizations and it requires letting go of past methodologies. The same mindset that contributes to that effort should also be applied to the types of solutions the Army uses moving forward, because the ANCP will not be successful if there is a continued dependence on legacy IT solutions.

It used to be fine for defense agencies to throw their lots in with one software behemoth controlling large segments of their entire IT infrastructure, but those days of expensive, proprietary solutions are over. Army IT professionals are no longer beholden to the technologies that may have served them very well for the past few decades, because the commercial market for IT management tools  now has lightweight, affordable, and easy-to-deploy solutions.

The willingness to let go of the past is the evolution of federal IT, and is at the heart of all modernization efforts. Managers now must use the right tools for the right jobs, regardless of provider. They must build upon their increasingly heterogeneous IT environments with solutions that work together and are easy to procure and use. They must not fall into the problem that a recent survey by my company, SolarWinds, unveiled, which is that a significant number of federal IT professionals view their CIOs as barriers to adopting new technology.

The fact that Ferrell and his team developed a plan as overarching as the ANCP indicates they are not among this group of CIOs. In fact, the plan itself shows vision and a great desire to help the Army “be all it can be.” Now, the organization just needs to fully embrace new methodologies and technologies to reach that goal.

About the Author

Joel Dolisy is the CIO at SolarWinds.

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