Defense

Software-defined networking key to Lockheed's DISA deal

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Success in Lockheed Martin's $4.6 billion contract to help manage the Defense Department's global information networks may hinge on an IT tool, software-defined networking, that has gained prominence in the two-and-a-half years since the contract award.

SDN is an IT architecture that centralizes network intelligence in software-based controllers, allowing for a broad view of the network, according to the Open Networking Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes SDN.

Pentagon officials are looking for such an all-encompassing view of the Defense Department information networks (DODIN). Acting CIO Terry Halvorsen has touted SDN as central to improving network security and called on the department to "embrace the software-defined mission."

Moreover, the Pentagon's IT infrastructure agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency, has formed an SDN working group to examine potential uses for the architecture on the DODIN.

SDN will "change the operating model" and cost structure of managing data networks, predicted Angela Heise, a vice president at Lockheed Martin. She and her colleagues have pegged increased use of SDN as one of the "major technology changes around networks" that will take place in the next five years.  

The Bethesda, Md.-based defense giant has invested in the architecture in the belief that SDN could "transform" the DODIN and "provide a better and more affordable capability for the customer," she added.

Lockheed responded to a request for information DISA issued in December that called for industry help in three specific use cases, including reducing high latency in connectivity between data centers. Current connectivity methods are in part “preventing DISA from using state of the art replication and redundancy,” an RFI draft states.

But it is not all new investments for Lockheed in defending DOD networks.

The "Cyber Kill Chain," the firm's framework for breaking down cyber intrusions into phases, is still in some ways Lockheed’s bread-and-butter for cyber defense. The firm has put its cyber analysts and their government counterparts through "intensive training" in how to use the framework to help defend the DODIN, she said.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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