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Achieving Better Network Visibility and Management

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide DoD in Transition. Download the full guide here.

With any large organization, achieving effective visibility and management is a challenge. At an agency like the Department of Defense (DoD) with several complex networks spread across commands and terrains, achieving strong visibility and management can seem nearly impossible.

To learn more about DoD’s challenges and the current cyber landscape, GovLoop spoke with Joel Dolisy, Chief Information Officer at SolarWinds, an enterprise IT management software company. He shared how federal agencies can better take advantage of IT management and monitoring tools and processes to successfully carry out mission critical tasks.

To shed light on these challenges, SolarWinds recently sponsored a survey of 200 federal government IT leaders. Almost half of survey respondents were from DoD, and 45 percent of them said that IT consolidation and modernization had increased security challenges, primarily due to incomplete transitions to newer platforms and difficulty supporting everything.

“One of the biggest problems of incomplete transitions is that you get the worst of both worlds, because you don’t get the full benefits of the new platforms yet… and you still have to deal with the problems associated with the old platforms,” Dolisy noted. Though agencies aim to improve the user end experience with these transitions, adding new technologies creates more complexity behind the scenes.

The problem is especially significant at DoD because of its size and the complex interactions between groups and systems in the agency. Complex environments can inhibit visibility and management of IT networks. Dolisy explained why that’s a problem: “If you don’t have the right visibility in addition to a complex environment, you’re basically running blind. Transitions can create a lot of pressure if you’re not prepared to manage the old and new systems, because now you have to monitor two fronts, instead of just one.”

Dolisy said the worst thing an agency can do is deploy a new IT plan and then expect to figure out the details later. Instead, agencies have to figure out how they’re going to address the issues of visibility, vulnerabilities, security management, and configuration management as a part of their rollout plan.

According to the SolarWinds survey, defense respondents said the top steps for reducing vulnerabilities include improving application security, standardizing network configurations, and increasing configuration change management.

Using tools to help build stronger visibility in log and event, patch and configuration management can help address many of those issues. “It’s helpful to ensure that your log and event and patch management tools have the flexibility to detect when your system is being exploited,” said Dolisy. Similarly, a strong configuration management process lets agencies understand who can make changes where, making it possible to identify when a change is valid or when it is the product of hacking.

These tools are constantly evolving, allowing for greater flexibility and adaptability to different mission needs. They help provide agencies with greater operational visibility of IT networks and any potential issues that may arise. One example of how DoD is taking advantage of network management tools is the Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical’s (WIN-T) partnership with SolarWinds.

WIN-T provides support for the Army’s tactical network by enabling soldiers operating in remote or challenging terrain to maintain voice, video and data communications while on the move.” In order to effectively manage this program, WIN-T employs a variety of SolarWinds network management, monitoring, and troubleshooting tools.

Visibility and network management are key for successful missions, and this is especially true at DoD. WIN-T’s partnership with SolarWinds highlights the ways federal agencies can benefit from network visibility and management tools.


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