The U.S. Navy is deploying new, automated solutions to facilitate better customer experiences for their teams who use bandwidth-intensive applications on closed government networks.
Speaking at ServiceNow’s Knowledge 19 conference, Jared Struchtemeyer, product owner at the Navy, discussed the challenges of tracking wide area network (WAN) links using only the Navy’s internal resources.
When it comes to communications in a classified environment, reliability is critical. To maximize security, the Navy operates its own network connections. In some cases, commercial products and services struggle in the Navy network environment.
“Because we can’t see our WAN links, it makes it a very big challenge to do quality assurance, especially on high-bandwidth applications like VTCs,” said Struchtemeyer.
Struchtemeyer’s office struggled with tracking accurate bandwidth information and alerting customers of shortages. A legacy database forced a reactive posture, and teams were often forced to downgrade VTC capabilities or accept a poor experience.
Naval customers went through the frustrating process of acquiring a VTC. Then, they would find that their bandwidth couldn’t support the necessary capabilities. Struchtemeyer sought a proactive way to estimate the bandwidth needed and bandwidth available at a site.
The issues also extended beyond bandwidth. Struchtemeyer and his team grappled with tracking usage and billing while using a legacy database. They needed to ensure that all customers using bandwidth services at a given site were all sharing the costs.
The Navy turned to ServiceNow for a modern solution: a ServiceNow Configuration Management Database (CMDB). First, they built a profile to align the requirements for its several hundred sites.
“If [available network capacity] is low, we will actually prompt the user that there could be a WAN link issue at their site, and we will create a subtask that goes out to our NOC (network operations center) team, who will take a good hard look at that connection,” said Struchtemeyer.
ServiceNow’s out-of-box solution allowed the Navy to add a VTC model category for tracking. The team also added network utilization rate tracking. This capability allows Struchtemeyer’s team to see what customers consume. Then, they can apply it to any configuration item (CI) record that uses the model.
And, ServiceNow CMDB streamlined the billing process. Variation in data entry (i.e. Street vs. St.) complicated reporting calculations. “Simply by getting that network circuit data into ServiceNow, we were definitely able to clean up a lot of the reporting issues that came from having bad data,” said Kurt Lutz, technical architect at Accenture Federal Services, the Navy’s partner in this deployment.
Visibility into clean, accurate data is allowing the Navy to deliver better services and communications experiences for team members.
Better data and analysis capabilities also provide clarity into where the Navy needs to upgrade network connections. “That’s what we were lacking before … I think as long as you have that kind of discipline and infrastructure, that reinforces [the need for upgrades] going forward,” said Struchtemeyer.
Next, Struchtemeyer aims to tackle network upgrades. He plans to institute case management and Service Level Agreement capabilities. And, while invoicing is much improved, Struchtemeyer says they are taking additional steps, adding workflows and the ability to track the workflows using dashboards.
With improved information for customer decisions, better billing practices, and a strong impetus to modernize network connections, the Navy’s bandwidth-intensive communications are coming through crystal clear.