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CHIPS Articles: Cmdr. Sean O'Brien

Cmdr. Sean O'Brien
Naval Education and Training Command Deputy Chief Information Officer
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2013
The Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) has implemented a Virtual Desktop Initiative, a five-year plan to deploy the VDI to more than 36,000 daily users which will replace 80 percent of about 23,000 desktop computers in 2,500 classrooms at 68 learning sites around the world. Desktop virtualization provides multiple student and instructor workstations from a centralized server environment which eliminates physical workstations residing in an electronic classroom. CHIPS asked NETC’s Deputy Chief Information Officer Cmdr. Sean O'Brien to discuss VDI and its impact on training, as well as other innovations that the training command is implementing to develop fleet readiness. O’Brien responded in writing in mid-March.

Q: Can you explain what the VDI is and how it works? Is the VDI considered cloud computing? How do you see it evolving?

A: Desktop virtualization is the simulation of a computer and its resources within software. This process drives the separation of the operating system and applications from the underlying physical asset. VDI is a form of cloud computing, and is really the first step towards establishing a true NETC private cloud.

Q: Does the VDI run on Navy Marine Corps Intranet computers and is it part of the NMCI’s limited deployment of the HVD, hosted virtual desktop?

A: Our implementation does not run on NMCI, but is very similar to HVD. The difference is our desktop virtualization stack is a VMware solution and NMCI’s is provided by Citrix.

Q: Can you talk about the benefits of the VDI? Can it be accessed from mobile devices?

A: Our goals are: refresh outdated electronic classroom (ECR) workstations and operating systems by (1) standardizing the processes and technology that deliver training; (2) providing a solution that supports a streamlined, centralized information technology workforce; (3) improving the enterprise security posture; and (4) providing continued mission support with existing resources in light of reduced funding over the FYDP (Future Years Defense Program).

Centrally hosting the desktop environment on a server enables us to provide: (1) a common desktop configuration; (2) a uniform electronic classroom experience for the Sailor; (3) central management of patches, software upgrades and operating systems; and (4) a standardized solution for student and application loads.

VDI reduces operating costs: virtualization reduces information assurance (IA) risks and requirements [because] data never leave the virtual server; no Data At Rest [solution] is required for zero-base clients; and non-compliant applications are isolated and minimize IA risks reducing IT touch labor. Zero-clients have no local operating system or disk drives to fail; no refresh requirements driven by protocol updates [or] new applications; and media, graphics or memory restrictions.

Right now, we are only servicing users that log in from a NETC electronic classroom, instructor prep station or an electronic resource room. At NETC activities at Keesler Air Force Base, we were able to serve up all instructor-led and self-paced courses. In the future, once we have a proof of concept and can identify and address security concerns, we see great training value to servicing NETC students no matter where they are and on any device they want, to include mobile devices.

During the planning process, the integrated project team determined VDI should be phased in throughout the domain because of diverse training environments and multiple stakeholders with varying requirements. At each site we are employing a rigorous pre-deployment process because several training applications are learning-site specific, and the team needed to consider each site and decided which workstations, programs and applications could be delivered as a service to the student.

At Keesler we were able virtualize all seats and applications, but given the age of some of our content and associated applications we expect that as we prep each site we will find that there are some applications that are just not good candidates for visualization. Our goal is to replace 80 percent of our desktops, with the remaining 20 percent handling those applications that do not virtualize well.

Q: When was the initial deployment of the VDI at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, Keesler Air Force Base, and what is the students’ response to how the VDI is performing?

A: We went fully operationally capable in January 2013. In this case, we went from 152 computers to three servers. Now when we need to update, we only have to do it three times instead of 152. It's a huge time and electricity saver and greatly reduces workload to a level commensurate with our manning. It's reliable, it's faster, and instructors now spend less time fighting technology and more time teaching. Our site technicians now spend more time on customer service — rather than compliance and configuration changes. Students and instructors are reporting a faster and richer learning experience on the new setup as latency and login times have been greatly reduced as well.

Q: Can you discuss any other information technology improvements that NETC is planning to improve the Navy learning environment?

A: The NETC CIO has chartered the Enterprise Training Management Framework (ETMF) initiative to apply industry best practices to increase efficiencies in developing, managing and delivering training. This effort represents a collaborative effort across functional subject matter experts (NETC N7), operational SMEs (NETC N6), technical SMEs (Sea Warrior Program under PEO EIS PMW 240), and Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center (NETPDTC) N6) to better define training and education requirements for training content and curriculum management and delivery.

The goal is to create a plan for IT development and spending that supports continuous business process improvements, meets required business needs, and in turn, improves the return on investment. ETMF is focused on delivering the right training or training quality to our students. The current efforts are directed toward developing an enterprise roadmap that will help NETC prioritize its technology investments by assessing their impact to the business.

The ETMF team has held a series of workshops designed to identify and prioritize the business drivers and processes that make up NETC’s mission. As we implement our strategy for transitioning those existing end-to-end processes, transition business rules and legacy systems into a data- centric, servicesoriented architecture, collaboration and communication across our domain are critical.

The next steps will involve working with technology teams to evaluate how meeting the business needs impacts our training support systems. The end result will be an integrated IT strategic goal of efficiently capturing, aligning, storing and delivering training content and data to enable effective and agile decision making, and improve information sharing and knowledge management capabilities across all our lines of business and between all our business systems. This strategy is a key to ensuring the right people receive the right training (content) at the right time through efficient and effective use of the right resources (instructors, classes and equipment).

The objective is to provide access to training anytime, anyplace, and the Navy began a phased roll-out of the modernized Learning Management System (LMS) platform Feb. 22 at the Naval Technical Training Center Meridian, Miss. Developed under a modernization effort called the Enterprise Training Management Delivery System (ETMDS), a subsystem in ETMF, it uses AtlasPro as the replacement technology for the current LMS that is at the end of its life. Navy eLearning (NeL) uses the LMS as the technology backbone enabling the delivery, administration, documentation, tracking and reporting of online educational courses and training programs. The new system will be phased in throughout shorebased training facilities only.

Since 2001, Sailors afloat and ashore have depended on NeL to help advance their careers and stay current with training requirements. Courses range from information assurance awareness training — required of all Sailors, Marines, civilians and contractors — to hull-specific training for individual afloat units. NETC relies on NeL for use in schoolhouses for individual skills and skill refresher training.

For More Information

New LMS for NeL: and click on ETMDS. A CAC is required for access.

Naval Education and Training Command public website:

Cmdr. Sean O
Cmdr. Sean O'Brien

Naval Education and Training Command seal.
Naval Education and Training Command seal.
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