Industry Opportunities Abound In Navy IT Network Consolidation

By Dan Parsons
Federal computing networks, including those belonging to the Defense Department, grew exponentially over the past 15 years and the explosion in information technology requirements sparked a boom for providers of both hardware and software.
It also caused energy use, personnel costs and inefficiencies to “skyrocket,” Lloyd McCoy, a marketing intelligence analyst with immixGroup, said May 22.
Industry could again reap the rewards as the federal government, and the military, begin the process of simplifying their sprawling, costly and inefficient computing networks, McCoy said.  
The federal government has launched an initiative to close 1,200 of its roughly 3,100 data centers by 2015, thereby achieving an estimated $5 billion in savings annually.  
“Consolidation and optimization is the common component of all [upcoming IT] programs,” McCoy said. “Opportunities for industry have been abundant.”
The Defense Department as a whole — and the military services individually — are following the federal government’s lead by consolidating and standardizing their own internal networks.
The Navy has plans to introduce two new networks — one ashore and one aboard its ships — that will simplify its unruly computing infrastructure and software inventory, McCoy said.
Navy officials have budgeted $7.2 billion in 2014 for IT investment and upgrades. The true dollar figure spent on IT could swell to more than $11 billion, given that some expenses, like personnel manning data centers and power bills, do not show up in the IT budget, he said.
The Navy has more than 120 data centers — each with labor, hardware, and energy costs — running 26,000 applications. Most are located along the East and West Coasts and near the mouth of the Mississippi in Louisiana. Plans are to close 20 of those centers this year and 58 more over next three years, which will leave the Navy at its goal of less than 25, McCoy said. But simply closing data centers will not in itself achieve savings or operational efficiency, McCoy cautioned.
“The goal is to optimize what exists in the data centers that will remain, not just shutter” a number of them to eliminate costs, McCoy said.
While consolidating its data centers, the Navy is implementing “application rationalization” aimed at streamlining the tens of thousands of redundant servers and applications it currently owns, McCoy said. The service will also set up three “enterprise data centers” that will be the regional nexuses of its new shore-based computing network. They will be located in San Diego, New Orleans and Charleston, S.C.
Together, the Navy and Marine Corps share the world’s largest computing intranet. NGEN, one of the Navy’s two major ongoing IT improvement programs, will replace the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI, ashore.
Its shipboard counterpart, the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise  Service, or CANES, is being developed in parallel. Together they will dramatically update and replace the current Navy-Marine Corps intranet and 11 other networks at sea and ashore. NCMI represents about 80 percent of the Navy’s intranet infrastructure with a user base of about 800,000 personnel.
In its fiscal year budget for 2014, the Navy has requested $1.8 billion for NGEN, mainly to purchase servers, cable, switches and network devices, McCoy said.
“This is a very big infrastructure and data management opportunity,” he said.
NGEN is currently in source selection. A team of HP and Lockheed Martin Corp. is competing against another formed by Computer Science Corp. and Harris Corp. An award for systems integration is imminent, Lloyd said.
CANES should be operating as the Navy’s primary afloat computing network by 2020. The Navy has allocated $384 million for that program in fiscal year 2014.
The system will provide each ship in the Navy’s fleet with a common computing environment, allowing it to field applications without having to develop new hardware in the future.
By relying almost entirely on commercially available technology, the program has a built-in refresh schedule for which companies will continuously compete. Both aspects are aimed at keeping costs manageable  as hundreds of systems are installed and deployed aboard a variety of ships. A built-in technology refresh schedule should ensure that software is upgraded every two years and hardware every four.
Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract to develop and implement CANES earlier this year after Lockheed Martin Corp. withdrew a protest. Yet, contracts for full deployment have not yet been awarded. A request for  proposals for full deployment is expected Friday with awards later in the calendar year, McCoy said. Full production could bring contracts worth a total of  $637.7 million, according to Navy documents.
There are also a number of smaller IT programs on the horizon that could present opportunities for industry. They include the Multifunctional Information Distribution System, which is the communication element of NATO’s Link-16 tactical data exchange network. The Navy has programmed  $127 million in fiscal year 2014 to pay for consolidation of servers and upgrades to the system, McCoy said.
The Navy needs upgrades to its common aviation command-and-control system, which includes network and data management service and voice over Internet provider systems.
The program is funded in fiscal 2014 at $57 million with the goal of providing the Marine Corps with the ability to share video, voice and sensor data between any vehicle in the field. The system in on track for deployment in 2015, McCoy said.
Just as it is doing at its domestic bases and aboard ships, the Navy is also seeking to establish a standard computing baseline network for its overseas installations. The OCONUS enterprise network — for outside the continental United States — was allocated $150 million in the Navy’s 2014 budget request.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Infotech

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