The Navy component of the sea services’ new cloud management office is up and running, according to a senior official from the program executive office for digital and enterprise services.
The nascent outfit, known as Neptune, is intended to serve as a single point of entry for the acquisition and delivery of cloud services across the Department of the Navy. A memo formally establishing the organization was signed off in June.
It is structured to have two components: one for the Navy and another for the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps side of the house has been operational since this summer, and the Navy’s was expected to be up and running near the beginning of fiscal 2024, which kicked off Oct. 1.
“I’d say now it’s started. They are two sprints into execution and there’s a lot to be done,” Louis Koplin, who recently took over as executive director of PEO Digital, said regarding the operating status of the Navy component. He did not provide details about the initial “sprints.”
Koplin previously served as the leader of the platform application services portfolio at PEO Digital, which Neptune falls under.
Neptune is “a blended office … because it’s a DON-facing capability. The Marine Corps component has been in place for a bit now. The Navy component we just funded in the last few months, we’ve got some contract support that just awarded before the end of the fiscal year, we’re in the process of hiring a government lead for that, under Neptune, that’ll be specifically on the Navy piece,” he noted during remarks Friday at the AFCEA NOVA Naval IT Day conference.
The standup of the new organization comes as the Department of the Navy and the Pentagon writ large are moving more aggressively to embrace the cloud as a key component of IT modernization plans. For example, the sea services are working on providing cloud access for deployed forces so that troops are able to stay connected in remote areas where connectivity is limited.
Policy guidance signed out in 2020 by the Navy CIO and assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition stated that the department “shall maintain its global strategic advantage by harnessing the power of data and information systems through cloud computing. Cloud computing is the primary approach to transforming how the DON delivers, protects, and manages access to data and applications across all mission areas. Cloud computing … shall be adopted and consumed in such a way as to maximize its inherent characteristics and advantages.”
Neptune will help officials sort through their options. It’s tasked with maintaining the portfolio of available and authorized cloud service offerings on the Naval Digital Marketplace and managing the department’s consumption across that portfolio via an integrated cloud Financial Operations (FinOps) capability. It’s also expected to deliver a cloud solutions guidebook that tells people how to best employ the Navy’s cloud portfolio.
“It’s the front end for us to implement the DON cloud policy [and] give everyone a place to go to start their cloud journey, whether you know exactly what you want or … you just got a new boss that said ‘Go buy me some cloud,’ and you have no idea what that means,” Koplin said.
“There’s a lot of clouds out there, especially for the folks who started when AWS was one of the only options available,” he added. “We’ve got some [Microsoft] Azure, we’ve got some Oracle, we’ve got some Google Cloud. And then we’ve got all the SAS applications, which are preferred way to get services. So, it’s really [about] how do we start to improve all those as a team. They’re all going to come into contract renewals, all gonna come to tech refresh, all gonna have to integrate with enterprise services like … identity services for ICAM and zero trust. So really, the purpose of Neptune in that regard is to start to bring together the coalition there [across the Department of the Navy and its various commands] and say … ‘We’re all part of the team now.’”
ICAM (identity, credential and access management) generally comprises a set of IT policies and systems that verify that users have the right credentials to access certain parts of a network. It’s a critical element of the Defense Department’s move toward a zero-trust cybersecurity model, which requires all users and data to be continuously authenticated and authorized as they move around the network.