U.S. Navy Increases Speed to Capability with Lab as a Service
In This Case Study
As the speed of receiving and acting on information increasingly affects combat readiness, the U.S. Navy depends on information technology systems to maintain an edge at sea and ashore. Being able to harness the latest technologies has become essential to mission success.
This is one of the reasons why the U.S. Navy works with academic and industry partners to help them deliver new capabilities to the warfighter. The Navy stresses the importance of these partnerships in its 2021 NAVPLAN:
"Delivering emerging capabilities at speed and scale requires every member of our Navy team, including our industry, academic, and research partners, to embrace the urgency of the moment: our maritime supremacy is being challenged. This means developing innovative systems, modernizing legacy ones, and rigorously aligning our acquisition enterprise with operational requirements. … Keeping ahead of our competitors requires us to rapidly field state-of-the-art systems."
One of these partners is an academic research institution that evaluates and develops innovative technologies and solutions for various Navy programs.
Traditionally, the academic partner has performed Analysis of Alternatives (AoAs), or paper proofs of concept (POCs), to inform technology evaluation and development. However, it found that this rigorous and time-consuming research process began to hinder it from developing and recommending new technologies at the speed of relevance.
While paper POCs can provide some insight into various technologies, they fall short in determining how products will function as part of complex information systems. Additionally, the academic partner had set the ambitious goal of motivating its Navy customer to move to a development, security and operations (DevSecOps) model. DevSecOps provides a new approach to systems development, integration, delivery and operations. Multiple teams work together to shorten the timeline of the systems development lifecycle while improving operations.
In 2018, the WWT Navy Team created a dedicated Lab as a Service (LaaS) environment for the academic partner inside the WWT Advanced Technology Center (ATC). The ATC is a collaborative technology ecosystem comprised of the latest IT solutions from more than 100 OEMs, connections into major cloud providers and enterprise-scale testing tools. LaaS gives the academic partner dedicated, on-demand access to space within the ATC data center.
The partner uses the LaaS environment to rapidly compare technologies from multiple OEMs hands on, conduct performance and functionality testing, and validate integrated architectures.
The environment also provides a method to explore and refine Agile methodologies for the systems integration process. DevSecOps teams leverage the dedicated environment to create sandboxes, digital twins or custom environments to support evolving mission requirements. With on-demand, 24/7 remote access to these environments, development teams can dynamically adapt at the speed of relevance to emerging technologies in support of the warfighter.
From robust testing to traffic generation and impairment to compute and storage resources, the academic partner is leveraging every aspect of its LaaS environment to support the missions of its Navy customer.
Since the inception of the LaaS environment, the academic partner has compared various products and solutions related to software-defined data center, data backup and disaster recovery, tactical edge systems and next-generation firewalls. They also have used the LaaS environment to validate a range of architectures, technologies and capabilities as well as test the performance and functionality of various OEM hardware and software products.
Many lab activities translate into real-world Naval capabilities, whether it's improving ship-to-shore communication, putting compute power into combat zones, or building cyber resilience to defend against enemy cyber attacks.
By moving to an Agile, DevSecOps culture and using Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) to build, test and deploy code, the academic partner has significantly improved its system development lifecycle, which has contributed to the warfighter getting advanced technology faster and more efficiently than ever before.
Recently, the academic partner leveraged LaaS to develop and test Next Generation (NexGen) Navy expeditionary architectures with Microsoft's Azure solutions. These edge-to-cloud solutions were subsequently demonstrated at one of the largest Naval exercises in Hawaii in front the Secretary of Navy (SECNAV) and other senior Naval leadership.
The paradigm shift in how the academic partner evaluates, tests, integrates and deploys technology is continually increasing the speed at which they can provide operational capabilities to the warfighter.