Navy preps cloud-first strategy as next step in modernization efforts

The Department of the Navy, like other military departments, took significant budget hits over the last five years.

The Navy, however, found ways to get more out of its funding by squeezing more value for fewer dollars out of its technology spending.

Janice Haith, who retired Feb. 2 after 34 years in government, including the last six years as the Department of Navy’s deputy CIO for the U.S. Navy, said the department transformed how it manages, buys and oversees technology over the last few years.

Janice Haith retired Feb. 2 after 34 years in government, including the last six years as the Department of Navy’s deputy CIO for the U.S. Navy.
Janice Haith retired Feb. 2 after 34 years in government, including the last six years as the Department of Navy’s deputy CIO for the U.S. Navy.

“We made some fundamental changes that overall I didn’t think we’d ever do like enterprise software licenses. That has been a huge opportunity for us where we are now buying licenses from retailers at a better price. We get better service from the way we do our software upgrades,” Haith said during an “exit” interview on Ask the CIO. “We’ve changed the way we use our devices. We used to be tied to one vendor, but now we are vendor agnostic for the most part. That is a good thing. That was another area where you saw commercial technology become part of the day-to-day fabric of what we do.”

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In 2011 when the Department of the Navy kicked off the software consolidation initiative, Haith said at that time that the department had no visibility on how many of these licenses were really being used, what was bought and by whom, and whether it’s a capability that’s only good for something that one or a few offices are developing.

Now six years later, Haith, who said she is going to stay involved in the federal community after retirement, said the DoN has saved more than $450 million over the last three years.

“We used to have a hard time tracking requirements. What everybody needs. We don’t have that problem anymore. We can tell by what people are buying so we know what the next iteration of software will lead us to buy so we reduced our costs that way by doing it,” she said. “With our product choices, we’ve gotten more standardized so we don’t have to customize as much anymore. We use the products right out of the box, which I know the vendors like because they hate the fact that we customize so much. But now we can use more [commercial off-the-shelf] products without having to make all those major modifications, and they work well.”

Haith also said the enterprise license effort has improved the DoN’s relationship with its vendors and the department now can shift resources to meet its needs better.

The cloud and data centers are the next areas the Department of the Navy will try to take advantage of to become more efficient.

Haith said the DoN is expected to release a new cloud-first strategy in February.

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“We will move as much as possible into the cloud environment for all of our applications,” she said. “As more vendors get approved by DoD, we will be using those.”

Haith said the Navy was expecting to have about 10 data centers, but with the growth and trust in the cloud, she said the DoN may reduce its footprint to as few as three.

“They will be for things that we choose not to move to a commercial provider,” she said.

In May, the DoN chief information officer gave the go-ahead for the CIOs of the Navy and the Marine Corps to sign off on their own business cases for migrating to commercial cloud vendors without seeking higher-level approval as a way to reduce the red tape in getting to the cloud.

The cloud will continue to play a big part in the Navy’s next iteration of its managed services contract known as Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN). The Navy expects to release the draft request for proposals for the NGEN 2.0 in the Spring.

Haith said the DoN is more mature in how it’s managing the different aspects of the contract, and especially in how it interacts with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services—the contractor running NGEN.

“Our relationship with HP has enabled us to take advantage of technology and solutions that they were using in HP corporate that we weren’t using, but now we are,” she said. “We have been able to reduce our physical footprint with what we had from 15 years ago with HP data centers that they operated for the Navy. We are down to significantly less. If you used to go into a data center and you used to have 100 racks, now we have 10 racks. That is how much computing has changed.”
Along with NGEN, Haith said another big priority for the DoN is the move to the Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS). She said the Department of the Navy is migrating its “excepted” networks—those not currently under the NGEN construct—to the new security architecture.

For the Navy, JRSS 2.0 still is the goal for all of its networks.

“I think JRSS will change the way we look and do things. It will definitely benefit from an overall DoD network perspective. It provides an extra layer of defense and that’s a good thing,” she said. “I think we will derive benefits. We are still in the learning mode. We only have had one site that made that transition so we don’t know enough.”

Haith said another important initiative to the DoN’s IT modernization is the move to Windows 10. DoD set of goal of migrating to Win10 by January 2017.

“We’ve had some challenges with what works with the current Windows 10 versus our current capabilities, which points to the fact we still want to reduce our application inventory too,” she said. “We need to make some configuration changes, and we are doing it. We’ve already started to deploy Win10 on a lot of our desktops. From our tactical on the ships, it’s a little bit different. We’ve got some work to do there. We will probably not make that 2018 date for the ships, but we will be close, by 2019, maybe by 2020 in some instances. It’s on different than the Army and the Air Force. We’ve all got the same challenges relative to our tactical capabilities and the embedded IT that it’s in them and when we can and can’t change them without impacting operations. We don’t bring ships back from sea to do things like this so we have to wait until the maintenance cycle to go through and that’s when we will do the changes.”