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CHIPS Articles: NMCI NOCs Norfolk and San Diego Open

NMCI NOCs Norfolk and San Diego Open
By Sharon Anderson - October-December 2001
The success of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet [NMCI] is "concrete, measurable and undeniable," said Rick Rosenberg, EDS NMCI Program Executive at the opening ceremony for the San Diego Network Operating Center (NOC) August 6, 2001. Located on the Naval Air Station North Island, California, the San Diego NOC is one of two fleet concentration centers that will be the main hubs for the NMCI.

The other main hub—the Norfolk NOC—opened July 9, 2001 on the sixth floor of the Fleet Industrial Supply Center (FISC), Naval Station Norfolk. The NOCs provide network management and monitoring, help desk support, user administration, and information security assurance, in addition to NIPRNET and SIPRNET access.

The NMCI will integrate more than 360400,000 desktops and disparate systems at more than 300 bases across the U.S., as well as sites in Puerto Rico, Iceland, and Cuba, into one unified network. The NMCI will give the Department of the Navy (DON) secure, universal access to voice, video and data communications, and through Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) it will bring pier-side connectivity to ships in port. The IT-21 vision is to link all U.S. forces and perhaps allies in a network that supports voice, video and data transmissions from a single PC.

Vice Adm. Richard W. Mayo, Director, Space, Information Warfare, Command and Control (OPNAV N6) on the occasion of the Norfolk NOC opening said, "We are well down the road to getting good high-speed secure networks to battlefield ships. With NMCI, we're bringing that same kind of secure network environment to our shore stations in the continental U.S."

The Norfolk NOC

The Norfolk NOC services Navy and Marine Corps bases east of the Mississippi River, with the San Diego NOC servicing the bases west of the Mississippi. Calls from Sailors and Marines stationed abroad will initially be routed to both the Norfolk and San Diego NOCs. When fully staffed, the Norfolk NOC will employ 640 employees with 300 working in the NOC and 340 in the Help Desk area, ; and about 100 will be military personnel.

Currently there are 10 Sailors in the NMCI Support Detachment Norfolk to train and work. They are on a fast-paced training track provided by EDS. EDS, the primary prime contractor, leading the NMCI program, provides the state-of-the-art training and opportunity for experience for Sailors to learn all functional areas of NMCI operations. When fully staffed by summer 2002, the NMCI Support Detachment Norfolk will have about 60 Sailors and 40 Marines. Dan Proctor, Norfolk NOC Manager said, "The NOC is very anxious to have the military come on board for the fleet perspective that they will bring to NOC operations."

ITCS (SW) Baker, Officer in Charge of the Detachment, said that all military personnel go through 10 weeks of mandatory training prior to job assignment. But complete training is expected to take six months. Military personnel will learn all facets of NMCI operation by rotating through all the functional areas—the NOC, Help Desk, server farms and data management. Prerequisite classes include Microsoft Certification classes and core competency training into include:

•NMCI Core – Includes all aspects of NMCI services, products and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to ensure customer satisfaction
•Customer Service
•Introduction to Computers/Hardware (A+ Certification)
•Introduction to Remedy (the software that runs the Help Desk trouble ticketing system).
•101 Networking Essentials (MS 2151)
•102 Windows 2000 Professional (MS 2152)
•103 Windows Server (MS 2152)
•105 Active Directory (MS 2154)
•104 Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure (MS 2153)

The Sailors come from a variety of backgrounds—three have more advanced IT knowledge—one of the three is UNIX certified. The other seven Sailors come from Navy communications backgrounds and will need more training. The Sailors are excited and recognize that they have a rare opportunity to learn and work in such an extraordinarily high tech environment like the NOC. They all remarked at how proud they are to be “plank owners,” to be the first in this innovative training program—learning from IT experts about the latest and best hardware, software and IT equipment available today.

Several of the Sailors commented on the uniqueness of their assignment.

“There is no other place in the fleet today where we [military personnel] could be working with advanced technology like the kind of equipment in the NOCs because no other command in the fleet will have this type of technology,” IT2 (SW) Ronald G. Ingram said.

Each of the Sailors remarked on the camaraderie of the Information Strike Force (ISF) team and their expertise in network engineering.

“The NMCI brings top industry leaders together—WAM!NET, the leader in network design and management; Dataline, the leader in voice communications; Raytheon information assurance and security; and EDS, the leader in coordinating large IT projects. Each of the businesses chosen, including small businesses, are the best in their field and that is why they were chosen,” Proctor said.

“These Sailors have been given a golden egg of opportunity to learn the latest in network management and design. This is knowledge that can be immediately applied and benefit the fleet," Baker said. “The benefit to the fleet with the NMCI is incredible—it provides one-stop shopping for support and service. There are so many help desks out there, that when you get into problems at sea—you don’t know who to call—the NMCI eliminates all the confusion. NMCI is like the DON’s own AOL (America Online).”

IT2 (SW) Anthony Romero said, and his co-workers agreed, that the ability for personnel to learn and work on a common platform of hardware, software and equipment that will be used all across the Navy will bring unbelievable efficiencies to fleet operations.

Romero said that it is going to be great reporting to a ship where you will already know the answers to so many questions because you will already have the knowledge and experience to work a ship’s LAN no matter which ship you report to.

Vice Adm. Mayo has repeatedly praised the high-tech training opportunities that the NOC provides for military officers and enlisted personnel to learn the latest in network IT—critical knowledge they can bring to fleet operations when they rotate to sea.

Baker explained that the NOC career path for enlisted personnel consists of training and working in the NOC for three years and then rotating to sea for two years. At that time, Sailors will return to any of the six NOC locations to begin the three-year training/working period again.

This is important because NMCI hardware is replaced every 36 months and the software is replaced every 24 months. This means that Sailors will always be trained in the latest technology. Since desktop software will never be more than one iteration from the latest software upgrade available, the NOCs will use Novadigm software to send software applications to the 400,000 desktops to be serviced by NMCI.

“The negativity you hear from people about NMCI is the fear of change. But if they would just give us a chance to show them how much NMCI is going to do for them and the Navy—if they could see the NOC and see how much we all care. I’d like to tell them, ‘you are going to fall in love with the NMCI—if you just give it a chance,’” Baker said.

The Norfolk NOC is impressive with 94,000 square feet of the latest and greatest in IT engineering. The NOC is located in a building which is an above the ground bomb shelter with 12-inch thick floors.

In addition to the NOC and help desk, there are 16 server farms that will service 70,000 desktops. NOC employees use a Remedy ticketing system to monitor trouble tickets in queue, priority tickets, and trend analysis. Help desk personnel provide basic how-to tips to resolving complex installation issues. They use Tivoli, a diagnostic type of software, to resolve user problems.

“Each desktop has a Tivoli agent installed. If the help desk employee is having difficulty in troubleshooting a problem, he might ask the user for permission to take control of the desktop to more quickly solve the problem. A screen would appear on the desktop and the user would indicate ‘yes’ for granting permission. The user could then actually follow the progress of the help desk employee moving through his system to resolve the problem,” said Annette Rogers, help desk manager.

The 16 server farms use both Dell and Sun servers with Cisco switches and routers. Veritas software is used for backup. Currently for storage there is one PowderHorn made by StorageTek—two more will be installed soon.

The PowderHorn stores server data with a 2,400 terabyte storage capacity. Stored data is kept for 30 days on-site and 90 days at an off-site location.

“Data retrieval is easy and transparent to the customer, if there should be a need,” Proctor said.

The server farms and storage actually operate at 50 percent capacity—leaving the other 50 percent available in case of war, Proctor explained.

In the server area there is a main distribution facility (MDF) for retrieving data at an incredible rate of 2.488 gigabytes per second (Gbps) using two huge pipelines.

“Service and support will be transparent to our customers. NMCI is all about service—NMCI is all about redundancy and reliability for our customers,” Proctor said.

San Diego NOC

The San Diego NOC is housed in the Grace Hopper Building, named after Commodore Hopper, or “Amazing Grace,” the “mother of modern Naval computing.” Several speakers at the opening ceremony remarked that placing the NOC in the Grace Hopper Building is fitting since NMCI will revolutionize the way the Department of the Navy does business.

EDS coordinated the opening ceremony and reception, which included representatives from local commands and state government. Rear Adm. Kenneth Slaght, commander Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR); Steve Erhler, technical director and Navy Deputy Program Executive Officer for Information Technology (PEO-IT); Scott Randall, program director for SPAWAR’s Naval Networks and Information Assurance Directorate; DON military and civilian personnel, ISF members, NMCI industry executives, and small business partners, rounded out attendance.

Rick Rosenberg hosted the opening ceremony which included Vice Adm. Richard W. Mayo, Assistant Chief of Staff C4I, Headquarters Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Robert M. Shea, and Commanding Office, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS) San Diego, Capt. Susan E. St. Jannuzzi.

Mayo said the biggest challenges NMCI faced were at the beginning of the contract with the composition of service level agreements (SLAs). The DON is a pioneer in the Department of Defense for using best commercial practices and standards to define quality of service, he explained.

Currently, the San Diego NOC is in security testing mode while the Red Teams attack the network to ensure intrusion detection safeguards meet the strict DoD security requirements reflected in the SLAs.

Jerry Harvey, NOC supervisor, said employees are on continuous alert for security breaches, which are immediately reported to the Fleet Information Warfare Center (FIWC). Strict authentication protocols prevent unauthorized user access but if a violation should occur, a NOC employee can seize control of the offender’s desktop and report the violation to the FIWC, the offender’s command, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).

The state-of-the-art, 10,000-square foot center was created in an astonishing four months out of old warehouse space. The center includes a separate room for employees monitoring the classified networks and a conference room with video teleconferencing (VTC) and collaborative planning capability. The wiring in the San Diego NOC includes more than 757 miles of fiber optic and copper cable, connecting servers, computers, data storage, and external connections.

Both NOCs operated 24x7—365 days a year. Both NOCs staff employees with backgrounds in network administration and many are Microsoft-certified professionals.

“Recently the qualifications standard has been raised for employees to be Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSE),” Harvey said.

Three huge plasma screens dominate both the San Diego and Norfolk NOCs—the screens serve as visual information walls providing employees with a status of data flow to and from the Internet. Employees monitor the news, weather conditions, etc., looking for anything that may interfere with network performance. For example, a short time ago CNN reported that a train wreck occurred in Indiana. San Diego systems operators monitored the situation and rerouted data traffic when it was discovered that the wreck caused a cut in the network fiber optic cable.

At full capacity the San Diego NOC will service 78,000 desktops. The first customers are NAS Lemoore and Naval Air Facility (NAF) Washington, D.C. The official cutover to NMCI was marked at 1735, Sept. 7, at NAF Washington for Naval District Washington.

AM1(AW) Ian Gehrmann sent the first e-mail to a host of DON recipients—including the Honorable Gordon R. England, Secretary of the Navy. The e-mail read in part: “At the direction of the Commanding Officer of Naval Air Facility Washington, I am pleased to report to the Chain of Command, We’ve been given a ready deck… NAF Washington has launched NMCI!”

NAF Washington will serve as the ISF logistics staging area for NMCI implementation throughout Naval District Washington. EDS and the ISF have been allocated 10,000 square feet of warehouse storage to stage up to 1,800 computers and peripheral for changeover within NDW.

Brig. Gen. Shea said Camp Pendleton will be connected by fall 2001. Shea explained the NMCI means cost savings, cost avoidance, focus on the warfighter, interoperability and enhanced communications capability for the Marines. He said the NMCI interconnects seamlessly with the Marine Corps Tactical Data Network to enable telemedicine, gaming, VTC capability, logistics and repair, intelligence, collaborative planning, and much more.

Mr. Harvey and NOC manager James McCain led guests on a tour where they were invited to talk to members of the ISF and NOC employees. The esprit de corps of the ISF and NOC employees and their pride and enthusiasm for a job well-done was evident. An employee said he was happily anticipating “family day” when the NOC will be open to staff families, who are eager to see the much talked of center.

Forty-three civil service employees were displaced by the NMCI implementation in the San Diego area, and all were successfully transitioned to other positions.

Rancho Santa Fe Technology-MCS, Inc. of Carlsbad, California, renovated the space in addition to the spaces for the server farms located at Point Loma, and the help desk and IT laboratory at Commerce Park (near Old Town San Diego). Three hundred-thirty employees staff the NOC—244 from small businesses.

Four other centers will be opening soon: Puget Sound NOC at Bremerton Naval Station, Jacksonville NOC at NAS Jacksonville, Oahu NOC at Pearl Harbor Naval Complex and the Global NOC at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia—scheduled for an April 2002 opening.

With the activation of the two main operating centers, the DON is well on its way for NMCI full deployment as an enterprise program that will seamlessly tie together the full range of network-based information services and make them available to Sailors, Marines and civilian personnel in peacetime and war.

NAF Washington, D.C., AM1 (AW) Ian Gehrmann, the first NAF NMCI user at his new workstation using his Common Access Card (CAC) to access NMCI.
NAF Washington, D.C., AM1 (AW) Ian Gehrmann, the first NAF NMCI user at his new workstation using his Common Access Card (CAC) to access NMCI.
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