How Network Connectivity Can Improve DoD IT

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent research guide, “Connecting the Mission of the Defense Department to You.”

For defense agencies to fulfill mission-critical needs, their IT professionals need the right management and monitoring tools and processes. Branches like the Army, Navy, and Air Force can’t function properly without seamless communications, visibility, awareness, and security.

But DoD IT professionals face a number of challenges as technology becomes even more complex. Such challenges include budget and resource constraints, evolving security regulations and difficulty using increasingly complex IT products. How can DoD IT rise to meet these challenges while delivering mission-critical services?

The answer lies in comprehensive network visibility and connectivity. To learn more about the importance of comprehensive IT management tools and how network connectivity can help address DoD IT challenges, GovLoop spoke with Mav Turner, Senior Director of Product Management at SolarWinds. SolarWinds is an enterprise IT management software company.

“One of the big differences for DoD is their mission-oriented nature,” Turner said. “Their entire IT infrastructure is required for the mission, but must also be portable when the mission requires it. Due to the nature of IT deployment and how critical those capabilities are, a small mistake can have a big impact on the mission. In some cases, it can even be fatal for warfighters.”

That’s why it’s especially important for DoD agencies to seek the right tools and processes for ensuring network connectivity. Turner emphasized that visibility across your networks is one of the first key elements to delivering network connectivity. “You need to have that single pane of glass across all IT infrastructure,” he said. “This way, you can quickly identify problems in your networks and address them before they impact service.”

At the same time, networks must be manageable and easy to use for any level of IT expertise. “Individual management is key,” Turner said. “While technology’s getting more complex, a user should just be able to log into a screen and not have to figure out what all the blinking lights mean.”

Lastly, security is critical to network connectivity. An agency as large as DoD must be especially protective of its networks to ensure the safety of warfighters. “Security needs to be built into your alert management, automation and visibility components,” Turner said.

One recent example of DoD leveraging better network connectivity is the Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN-T). WIN-T is the Army’s common tactical communications network backbone. It enables soldiers operating in remote and challenging terrain to maintain voice, video, and data communications.

WIN-T has deployed a range of SolarWinds network management, monitoring and troubleshooting tools, including Network Configuration Manager, Network Performance Monitor, NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, VoIP & Network Quality Manager, and Engineer’s Toolset. WIN-T selected SolarWinds because the solution met the program’s technical mission requirement and was more affordable.

WIN-T leaders strive to upgrade network operations and management in an effort to simplify operations. The network team needed call detail records of their VoIP calls in order to comply with Army Training and Doctrine Command. SolarWinds responded to support this requirement by developing a solution for aggregating CDRs, partnering with WIN-T to define and test the solution.

Automated network tools analyze network traffic, discover and map devices, manage and back up configurations, and monitor network communication and quality . These systems can immediately notify IT staffs of any issues before they become a problem. Additionally, the network tools are able to run on a variety of IT infrastructures.

“One recent IT trend we’re seeing is about 96 percent of public sector organizations have migrated some critical applications and infrastructure to the cloud,” Turner said. “Yet almost a third had to bring some back on-premises because of performance, security, and other challenges.”

Tools like those in SolarWinds’ network management suite offer what Turner described as a “sweet spot” in these hybrid environments. “These tools can improve the success of deployments by providing that hybrid IT single pane of glass. Users can see how their networks are doing on-premises, in the cloud, and can measure how those applications are performing before they even migrate,” said Turner.

While DoD IT will continue to face the challenges of increasingly complex technology, it is imperative that they ensure communications, visibility, awareness, and security – especially for warfighters. With the right network management suite, IT professionals, regardless of level of expertise, can deliver these results. Additionally, network connectivity tools are easy to use in any cloud or on-premises environment so that IT staffs and DoD professionals alike can meet their mission objectives.

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