Navy IT readies for Isabel

Navy Network Warfare Command and the Navy Marine Corps Intranet global network operations center, both in Norfolk, Va., have implemented contingency plans to ensure their computers would remain up and running even if the areas around Norfolk lose power

Some of the U.S. Navy's most technical work takes place in Norfolk, Va., a city right in the path of Hurricane Isabel. The Navy Marine Corps Intranet's global network operation center (NOC) — the nerve center of the network — is located there, as is the headquarters for Naval Network Warfare Command.

Starting this week, two days before the storm hit shore, some operations were transferred to location out of the line of fire, said Kevin Clarke, a spokesman for EDS, the lead contractor for NMCI.

"We've already transferred the majority of help desk operations to San Diego," Clarke said. "A small staff will remain at the NOC to do some back office work and will remain throughout."

The operation center has backup power capabilities to keep it running for days, if necessary, Clarke said. In addition, in the event of a complete power failure or some catastrophe that would prevent the center from functioning, the entire system could "fail over" and be picked up by the other centers, Clarke said.

"We fail over routinely to test the network's capacity," said Clarke. Failing over, he explained, is similar to load balancing in that it involves eliminating the workload handled by the Norfolk ops center and transferring it to one or more of the others.

"There was an instance early on [in the NOC] where heavy rains in Norfolk caused flooding and a short in the power grid," said Clarke. "So we have had to do it (fail over) before in an emergency situation."

John Donaldson, a spokesman for the Naval Network Warfare Command, said the lack of activity on the East Coast caused by the storm will most likely mean that relatively little extra work will have to be picked up by the call centers in San Diego or Pearl Harbor.

While Naval Network Warfare Command has its headquarters in Norfolk, the majority of its operations are in Dahlgren, Va. and out of the direct line of fire, Donaldson said. The one operation that is at Norfolk is the Navy's Computer Incident Response Team, which monitors and responds to attempted attacks on the Navy's networks. The team will continue its operations throughout the storm, he said.

"They are isolated enough that little from this storm will likely affect them," he said. "They also have emergency backup power capabilities for days."

The network operations center in Quantico, which will run the Marines' systems, is not up and functioning yet, and will therefore be unaffected by the hurricane, Clarke said. The NOC should be functioning in a matter of weeks.

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