Corps begins prepping for NMCI
- By Dawn S. Onley
- Aug 07, 2002
In theory, the Marine Corps doesn't need to be a part of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, the single network that will link voice, video and data throughout the Navy Department.
Since 1997, the military's smallest service branch has had similar capabilities through its Marine Corps Enterprise Network. MCEN integrates applications such as the Marine Air Command and Control System and the Marine Corps Tactical Network, and is managed at a Corps network operating center in Quantico, Va.
Marine systems officials expect the cutover to NMCI to boost the gains the Corps has made through MCEN. NMCI will speed the Corps' goal of centralized configuration management and data center consolidation.
A year after the service began using MCEN, officials began buying servers and computers centrally rather than having each command buy its own. The Corps' systems officials said centralizing hardware procurements will help them better manage the lifecycle of the equipment.
In 1998, the Corps began centralizing procurements by buying Pentium PCs with 75-MHz processors. Today, it has upgraded to 2-GHz Pentium 4 machines.
Also in 1998, the Marines began publishing enterprise software standards.
'Previously, we were like any other service,' said Col. Robert G. Baker, chief of the service's Network Plans and Policy Division.
'We had LANs, but they weren't integrated with each other. We've been refining that ever since,' he said.
Next year, the Corps will join NMCI, a $6.9 billion, fixed-price seat management contract that will consolidate 200 networks into an intranet, linking 411,000 desktop PCs. Electronic Data Systems Corp. is the contractor.All aspects covered
Under the contract, EDS provides users with technology refreshes, desktop PC hardware and software, technology support, e-mail, training and many security upgrades in its per-seat charge.
Baker said although the Corps had already made significant progress in its transformation, NMCI will benefit the service in at least three ways:
- It will provide bandwidth on command, making it easier for the Corps to scale up programs.
- Total cost of ownership will be easier to define.
'At the enterprise level, it's still hard to know down to the last penny what is spent on IT,' Baker said, but it won't be under NMCI.
- All servers in a particular region will be maintained and supported by the Information Strike Force, a team of contractors led by EDS.
Each of the 30 Marine bases has its own help desk and dozens of decentralized servers.
Consolidating them will reduce maintenance costs and improve configuration control and network efficiency, Baker said.
'Imagine how many people it takes to administer servers in different locations,' Baker said. 'What you have is inefficiency in the networks and a hard time with maintaining configuration control. You might be able to neck down 250 servers on one base to 75 servers.'
More than a half dozen Navy bases will cut over to NMCI.
The Marine Corps will be the last organization of the Navy to make the transition, which is set to start early next year. Marines will comprise roughly 60,000 of the 411,000 PC seats.
Baker expects the move to be easier for the Marines than the Navy. It has had problems reducing the number of applications it uses to fit on the NMCI platform and has faced resistance from some users. By going last, the Corps has had more time to prepare than the Navy, and with 172,000 active-duty members, the service is much smaller.
'We try to pay very close attention to what other people are doing and we're trying to learn as much as we can,' Baker said.
Since last fall, a Marine Corps legacy application team has traveled from command to command, identifying old apps that are redundant, incompatible with the Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system or unsuitable for the enterprise.
The team started with 7,876 apps in September and will kill all but 432 as the Corps makes the transition to NMCI.
'We massed the forces together and really placed a focus on what we needed to do,' said Debra Filippi, deputy CIO. 'We're still hopeful we're going to be able to reduce that 432 number down further.'
The team is also checking whether it can buy enterprise software licenses for the apps it decides to keep, Filippi said.