This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member LMI shares how emerging technology is making it easier for agencies and their partners to share essential data, even when the organizations have different security policies and protocols.


Last week’s Virtualization in a Collaborative Information Sharing Environment Forum, sponsored by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), shed light on how emerging technology is making it easier for agencies and their partners to share essential data, even when the organizations have different security policies and protocols.

Network virtualization, also known as software-defined networking, uses cloud-based principles and technology to provide a more efficient IT infrastructure while opening the door for different types of users to seamlessly access information for which they are authorized by law and policy.

Kshemendra Paul, who oversees the Information Sharing Environment (ISE), noted that the original vision of a single, universal cloud providing services to all federal agencies has changed. Today, ISE’s emphasis is to establish common policy to “federate trust.”

Groups with different security and access controls share many common elements around trust (i.e., business rules for issuing credentials, individual attributes, data retention), so there is a framework for a diverse range of professionals to come together and share data. Paul noted Alabama already has developed a trust framework to enable the medical and law enforcement communities to share casework data.

To move agencies to a state where users share information without being hampered by technology, the panel discussed the following.

Network virtualization

  • Is gaining momentum—already, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is fast-tracking implementation of network virtualization and wants other agencies to join.
  • Could automate security policy—by using the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework for trusted identities in cyberspace, XML could be used to translate thousands of access control policies into machine-executable code.
  • Offers flexibility and immediacy—agencies will be able to expand and contract networks, as needed, as well as create them and move them around rapidly.
  • Creates efficiencies—alongside enhancing mission capabilities, virtualization lowers costs and improves end-user service through faster configuration and instant upgrades.
  • Tightens security—patches are quickly applied, since IT departments know all the users and applications for a given network.

Key challenges for implementing virtualization include change management and security. Seamlessly sharing sensitive information between organizations often goes against the grain of agency culture. Making virtualization scalable requires a culture change.

Security remains a constant challenge. As the data grow, IT departments will need to analyze bigger and bigger data sets to find insiders behaving badly. The right security investments need to be set aside for virtualization projects.

Keith Nelson is a member of LMI’s Organizational and Human Capital Solutions group, supporting human resources IT, workforce management, succession planning, and performance management for the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the General Services Administration. Mr. Nelson holds an MBA from UCLA and a Master of Journalism from UC Berkeley.

 

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