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Ministry of Defence CIO explains defence as a platform

Mike Stone took to the stage at the Microsoft Future Decoded event to explain the Ministry of Defence’s plan for defence as a platform

Ministry of Defence (MoD) chief digital and information officer Mike Stone discussed the MoD’s plans for a defence-as-a-platform (DaaP) infrastructure at the 2015 Microsoft Future Decoded event in London.

Stone highlighted the previous siloed nature of the department and stated he had been working on breaking down these vertical ways of working, as well as ending “monolithic” IT supplier contracts.

This fits with the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) plans to implement a government-as-a-platform (GaaP) service across government, which will allow departments to adapt pre-built services and reduce the number of replicated services used throughout government.

“This accounts for around 10% of the defence budget, so it’s big business,” said Stone.

He explained that he had been brought in to the department with a “remit to transform” and that he was challenged to do so at pace. Stone developed a number of change portfolios that had a focus on DaaP, with the “goal to support defence in all of the environments in which we operate”.

“This is so we can ensure that anyone with the appropriate permissions can log on to our tactical, deploy or corporate systems with a single set of credentials and experience something that is familiar to them,” said Stone.

“They get the data and connectivity they need for the role they’re fulfilling at that particular time,” he added.

However, the transformation has been challenging because all projects need to be aligned for single sign-on to work.

Defence-as-a-platform programme

Stone discussed some of the delivery programme segments operating in the DaaP plan, including DaaP Base, DaaP Deployed and Daap Future.

He explained that DaaP Base, which was previously called DaaP Fixed but was changed as it implied the system was not mobile, required the renegotiation of the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) and Defence Fixed Telecommunications Service (DFTS) contracts to deliver services such as global connectivity and integrated user services.

The DII contract took five years to win and has been running for 10 years and the DFTS contract has been running for 18 years.

“In the area of the DII, I decided soon after I arrived that we needed to completely renegotiate it as it wasn’t fit for purpose,” said Stone.

“We started [negotiations] in October 2014 and we completed it on 1 July 2015 when we signed the contract, which shows that you can do things at pace if you really set about it.”

The renegotiation of the DII contract created the New Style of IT (NsoIT) contract to “fully embrace” the power of cloud and fully adopt mobility.

The New Style of IT for the MoD is currently in an alpha testing phase, which will move into beta in early 2016 with the intention that the department will begin migrating 20,000 users a month to the new service over the course of a year by April 2016.

Making the department more mobile

Stone underwent a similar process with the DFTS contract, which had been going through a renegotiation contract for four years when he started his job.

This transformation has allowed Stone to focus on DaaP Deployed, which focused on more mobile aspects of the department.

“We’ve got every process down to under six weeks and we’re operating from joint war rooms with a single programme plan and a single risk register,” he said.

“As we’ve moved into accelerated delivering, this has allowed me to shift my main effort into the deployed space.”

The deployed space were all delivering siloed applications, and Stone claimed one particular department was using seven separate infrastructures, each with their own LAN and different levels of security.

Alongside breaking down these silos, part of the DaaP Deployed remit would be to renegotiate its ageing voice and data contract to gain control of its radio IPR before auctioning support for a shorter, cheaper contract, which it is calling Morpheus at Pace.

The DaaP Future plans are not currently in operation, said Stone, but the idea is that this will be used to identify systems that could replace the current systems in the future.

He highlighted the importance of Microsoft technology such as Azure for Active Directory, enterprise mobility and rights management, and hailed the Microsoft cloud technology and its ability to act autonomously as something that will come in useful for areas such as submarine missions.

Virtual reality may also be on the cards, and Stone said there “will be a use” for technologies such as Microsoft’s impending HoloLens product.

“What we’re doing here is moving from contracting and into really accelerated delivery. What I’m looking to do is move to a single infrastructure,” he said. 

Earlier in 2015, the Ministry of Defence began putting these plans into action, shelling out £1.5bn on two contracts to supply IT and communications with the aim of saving the department money in the long run.

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