Tech Success: Managed Objects gives Army big picture

Project: Network Operations Common Operational Picture
Agency: Army Signal Command

? Integrator: Veridian Corp., Arlington, Va.
? Software provider: Managed Objects Inc., McLean, Va.

Army Signal Command wanted a system that could provide an overview of all Army networks, not only by operational status of their communications equipment, such as routers and firewalls, but also how the equipment related to the mission readiness of Army units.

Network management tools that aggregate the operational status of equipment across a network exist, but few could be easily customized to present this information in terms of operational readiness.

Using a fully integrated command center, such as the one pictured above, the Army can better assess how a network problem will affect a given mission.

Managed Objects' Formula software surveys network devices by tapping information from other network management software, allowing Veridian to build a visual overview while using software already in place.

Andy Carter and Mike Miller of Managed Objects

Olivier Douliery

Managed Objects

How do network outages affect readiness? Veridian taps software to explain it

When faulty routers or denial-of-service attacks plague an Army network, the top brass want to know one thing: How does it affect the ability of Army units to perform their missions?

Which is why the Army Signal Command tapped Veridian Corp., Arlington, Va., under a task order worth $732,000, to develop a system that allows the service to understand immediately how changes in the operational readiness of its networks worldwide affect its mission readiness. Veridian picked business service management software from Managed Objects Inc., McLean, Va., to do the job.

The Army has six network centers around the globe, each overseeing a different continental area. Under a General Services Administration task order, Veridian has begun a pilot project to unify into a single view the data from two network centers, one for the continental United States and the other for South and Central America.

This pilot project will track the operational statuses of four key services: security routers, intrusion detection systems, domain name servers and installation gateway routers.

The overall view, called the Network Operations Common Operational Picture, will allow the Army Network Operations and Security Center in Fort Huachuca, Ariz., to provide better IT awareness information to policy-makers and warfighters.

"With this common operational picture, we can identify root causes of problems. If a particular service is not available, we can see the impact it will have on a particular mission," said Melvin Kinnebrew, Veridian program manager for the project.

Kinnebrew said Veridian selected Managed Objects' Formula software because it was the most interoperable with the other applications already being used by the Army network centers.

Should the pilot project prove a success ? it's due to be running by the end of September ? Veridian may use Managed Objects' Formula to fold information from other Army centers into this umbrella view.

Bringing network information up to a management-level overview proved to be a tricky task, however. Part of the challenge that faced Veridian was that regional operational centers used different instrument monitoring software.

"For years, the Army has been divided in various camps over its use of enterprise network software," said Mike Miller, head of North American sales for Managed Objects. Three solutions were particularly prominent: UniCenter from Computer Associates International Inc., OpenView from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Tivoli from IBM Corp.

"I can get status about routers from OpenView. I can get status about intrusion detection systems from a Tivoli enterprise console. But this information is not easily integrated into a common picture," Kinnebrew said.

Signal Command looked at 12 products that could present common operational views, Kinnebrew said. It narrowed the candidates to two: Formula from Managed Objects, and the Netcool suite from Micromuse Inc., San Francisco.

"The real solution was the one that could leverage existing management assets without imposing constraints of what we could do down the line," Kinnebrew said. "The major benefit of Formula is that it didn't bind us to any one specific product."

Privately held Managed Objects was formed in 1997 and has about 100 employees. Most of its customers are financial services companies, which use Formula to understand how efficiently IT equipment is supporting business objectives.

"If a company wants to carve out everything that touched cash management, regardless of what system it was on, it could use Formula," Miller said.

This functionality, Miller said, can be valuable to the proposed Department of Homeland Security.

"There is going to be a lot of consolidation of resources. If each agency is retaining control of its data, there somehow has to be a virtual way of assessing a system's status without each agency giving up control of its part," he said.

Miller said Managed Objects can give integrators a "pretty significant advantage" when bidding for work.

"When bidding any application, an integrator can give a client a portal view into the health of that application," Miller said.

In addition to Signal Command, the Defense Information Systems Agency uses Formula for its computing services division, which was implemented by Northrop Grumman Corp., Los Angeles, according to Andy Carter, a senior account executive who covers the government market for Managed Objects.

On the commercial side, Formula was used by Bank of America Corp. to sort through the IT of its merger with NationsBank. Computer Sciences Corp., El Segundo, Calif., used the software for managing the IT assets of a globally spread financial firm.

Formula starts at about $110,000 for smaller implementations and averages about $400,000, Miller said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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