New software aims to monitor Navy intranet, prevent glitches

New technology will enable the Navy and Marine Corps to better monitor progress on a project to consolidate its computer systems into a single, massive intranet and will help prevent the system from crashing, officials said Friday.

In October 2000, Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS) won a five-year contract to provide technology, maintenance and help desk support for the multibillion NMCI project. The internal network is designed to increase and streamline information sharing among roughly 300 Navy and Marine Corps bases in the United States, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, Iceland and Japan. NMCI is also intended to protect sensitive military information from hackers.

The new technology, which EDS purchased from Cisco Systems Inc., will allow staff at the computer banks that serve as hubs for information exchanged on the network to monitor the entire intranet in their search for glitches. This will allow them to detect and prevent crashes before they take place, said Bill Hartwell, Cisco's director for Defense Department and intelligence community operations.

The software will also send out electronic alarms to staff who monitor the system at the hubs, if NMCI's security systems fail. This will enable staff to proactively prevent network failures, a capability that is especially important on a system that houses critical military information, Hartwell said. Information collected by the Cisco technology at the regional computer banks and warnings about system failures can be quickly transmitted to the NMCI's three central command centers, where staff members can fix problems that arise, Hartwell said.

Staff at the San Diego computer center serving as one of the system's three main hubs began using the new monitoring system on March 3. All of the intranet's hubs are scheduled to use the technology by June, according to Cisco. EDS spokesman Kevin Clarke said that timeframe sounded reasonable, but was not sure when the new software would be fully implemented.

The new technology is useful to EDS because it will help demonstrate that the contractor is providing the quality of service agreed upon in its contract with the Navy and Marine Corps, said Clarke. EDS has more than 35 requirements in the contract that it must meet, and the new software will measure whether the agreements are being met. For instance, administrators will now be able to tell whether the intranet is transferring data at the speed agreed upon in the contract.

Lawmakers have questioned whether EDS is capable of meeting its agreement to develop the massive intranet. The project is running more than a year behind schedule because of delays in the testing phases and a failure to identify tens of thousands of existing legacy applications that should be either eliminated or moved onto the intranet during the consolidation effort.

These delays gave House appropriators pause in July, and they put a hold on the number of computers that could be connected to NMCI until EDS worked out some of the problems with the legacy applications. But in a show of continued support for the approximately $9.5 billion project, appropriators lifted the hold in February and have allowed the Navy to extend EDS' contract to 2009 if necessary.

Despite delays, EDS has made substantial progress in recent months, according to Rear Adm. Charles Munns, the NMCI director. The contractor is responsible for hooking more than 360,000 workstations to the intranet and so far, has connected about 60,000. The Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va. became the first base to begin the transition to NMCI on Feb. 10.

The new software will help quantify this progress and will hold EDS accountable for further delays or failures to hold up its end of the contract, Clarke said. The contractor has welcomed this chance to demonstrate the quality of its work, he added.

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