This past year has seen the Department of Defense (DoD) make great strides in the adoption of cloud services, opening it up more to as-a-Service. Its new cloud service procurement initiative, called Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC), which began in late 2022, has set the wheels turning in the right direction. In August 2023, DoD Chief Information Officer, John Sherman, announced, “that all defense agencies, military services and other offices are to prioritize the JWCC cloud services arrangement.” With the adoption of cloud-based infrastructure, the DoD has the opportunity to take advantage of Everything as-a-Service (Xaas), including Network as-a-Service (NaaS), which provides network infrastructure to support today’s multi-cloud environments. Through the use of as-a-Service models, the DoD can become better at eliminating information silos, allowing for quicker coordination and response, and increasing its ability to scale up and down. In a recent FedScoop article, Lamont Copeland, Director of Federal Solutions Architecture, Verizon, and Jim Westdorp, Chief Technical Officer, Ciena, discussed why NaaS is the next step for the DoD on its digital transformation journey.
The DoD has made great strides in its digital transformation journey in the last few years. In the article, “Why ‘Network-as-a-Service Offers a Better Investment Model for Agencies”, Copeland and Westdorp argue that within the digital transformation realm, there is one aspect that agencies across the board aren’t fully addressing. “What often gets less attention…is the imperative to modernize the underlying network infrastructure that keeps agency operations functioning — and ensure that agency networks can keep pace with expanding IT demands,” they wrote.
The explosion of data, applications, and security controls across multiple cloud environments has placed unprecedented stress on aging legacy networks. This has not only made network maintenance challenging, but it has also driven up the costs of replacing outdated network components.
“As agencies continue to expand their use of external services, the need for real-time asset and threat detection and network response all but require a new generation of automated and software-defined networking capabilities to keep pace,” Copeland and Westdorp explained. Beyond budgetary concerns surrounding accelerated network modernization, agencies grapple with additional constraints, including the time-intensive nature of upgrades and the rising expenses associated with procuring compatible network equipment. Compounding the situation further, is a shrinking pool of experienced technicians “familiar with the intricacies of legacy government systems” and a fiercely competitive job market that makes talent acquisition and retention difficult.
Copeland and Westdorp emphasized one of the biggest cloud adoption lessons over the past 10 years has taught agencies that “[c]ontinuing to invest in and maintain agency-owned or operated hardware and software, with some exceptions, makes less and less sense compared to the advanced capabilities, agility, and continuous updates that cloud services providers routinely deliver.” This lesson is equally applicable to network infrastructure, which is where NaaS comes into play. With the modernization of network infrastructure becoming more complex, NaaS offers a solution that addresses several key challenges.
NaaS offers agencies access to cutting-edge hardware and network security developments through partnerships with industry leaders. This allows agencies to stay at the forefront of technological advancements, leverage the network for cyber defense, achieve automation and service agility with SDN-driven orchestration, and optimize infrastructure. At the same time, agencies are empowered by the technical knowledge and best practices that industry partnerships bring, especially in network security.
Offloading network maintenance to service providers enables agency personnel to focus on strategic initiatives and the core mission, freeing them from the intricacies of network management. The Air Force is one member of the DoD taking advantage of these partnerships in its recently expanded testing of NaaS at two bases: Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska and Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado.
In an interview, the Air Force’s assistant deputy CIO for digital transformation, Maj. Gen. Kevin Kennedy, explained they are using this expansion to rethink their approach to access through vital private networks. “What we’re trying to see there is how we can leverage a different transactional path with different security devices that will enable us to leverage their networks or security to see if that does help with the users as they’re trying as they’re leveraging IT,” he said.
Embracing Network as-a-Service not only alleviates the challenges faced by agencies but also better positions them to meet future mission requirements and serve citizens’ needs. Leveraging the expertise of industry leaders in global networking and network services, especially in keeping networks secure, empowers federal leaders to unlock the full potential of modern IT and establish a resilient and secure foundation for the future. NaaS is not merely a solution; it’s a pathway for the DoD to secure its IT future and ensure their networks can meet the evolving demands of the digital age.
To learn more about NaaS and its benefits for the DoD and other federal agencies, read the full story from Copeland and Westdorp on FedScoop here.