The Winchester Mystery House is an elegant, but curious 160-room Victorian mansion in San Jose, California. From 1884 until 1922, it was under continuous construction by the eccentric widow of the founder of the Winchester Rifles and Shotguns Company, Sarah Winchester, who was told by a medium in Boston that to ward off the evil spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles, she needed to build continuously on the house. She hired hundreds of carpenters who worked on the house 24 hours a day for 38 years, without an architect or overall design in mind. The result was exquisite craftsmanship, but also staircases that lead nowhere, doors in the floor, chimneys that do not reach the ceiling, and doors that open onto walls.
Much like the Winchester house, the Navy has communications doors that open into brick walls and Internet-Protocol staircases that lead nowhere. Directory services that uniquely identify each naval user are neither coordinated nor synchronized between afloat and ashore networks, and many databases in use throughout the Navy are not written in vendor-neutral code, making them inaccessible to other applications that could potentially reuse their data. At the root of the Navy's communications network "Mystery House" is the lack of a standards-based enterprise architecture that relies on shared infrastructure. The first step toward such an architecture for naval forces is identifying those capabilities that must cross enclaves to provide a true end-to-end capability to support operations and business processes. The architecture will be the basis for ensuring interoperability among naval forces and other services, agencies, and coalition partners. Its pillars must include: enterprise services, shared infrastructure, and governance.
The Navy's four main network enclaves (the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet; the Integrated Shipboard Network Systems part of the Information Technology for the 21st Century program; the Marine Corps Tactical Network; and the Base Level Information Infrastructure for overseas networks) are managed by separate groups with architectural designs not necessarily devised or implemented with the other enclaves in mind. This creates interoperability and knowledge-management challenges and presents difficulties in moving and accessing authoritative information. The solution lies in the implementation of standards-based enterprise services (such as global directories, standardized replication and synchronization tools, single sign on, and collaborative tools) across all the enclaves. Architects of each enclave must work in close coordination, ensuring only enterprise-service solutions that support cross-service/ agency interoperability are pursued. The Navy's Chief Information Officer and the Naval Network Warfare Command, working closely with the Defense Information Agency's Global Information Grid Network Enterprise Service group, must provide governance over these solutions.
Stovepiped systems should be a thing of the past for naval units, but unfortunately, program managers across the systems commands and the combat support communities continue to pursue solutions that are system specific. The result afloat is a collection of hardware and software systems each requiring its own integrated logistics support, trained systems administrators, and critical infrastructure. A notable exception to this, the Fleet Application Servers (FAS), is being installed with the Collaboration at Sea suite. The FAS provides a host platform where Web services and application code can be installed on a common shipboard platform, reducing the expensive and maintenance-intensive hardware footprint afloat.
As the enterprise architecture is developed and implemented, the ease with which information can move among the four enclaves to support operations will improve, tying together weapons, sensors, communications nodes, and people. New standards and technologies should be explored, tested, and implemented with a view toward end-to-end enterprise use in meeting warfighting requirements. Only those systems built to open standards and using shared infrastructure should be supported in a naval architecture. This will take cooperation among the systems commands and acquisitions personnel, along with an in-depth technical knowledge of the enterprise architecture to ensure the next-generation capabilities implemented will move us toward achieving the technical foundation of ForceNet. This is not a simple task, but it is necessary to avoid proliferation of our "Winchester network."
Lieutenant Commander Barrett is an information professional officer assigned to Task Force Web.