MeriTalk connected with Kevin Griffith, Senior Director of DoD Operations at Red Hat to discuss how the Department of Defense (DoD) can drive mission-based value and improve operations with modern application development and delivery methodologies.
MeriTalk: Can you highlight a few of the challenges DoD faces with their software supply chain and modernization efforts today?
Griffith: In today’s cyber landscape, agencies within the DoD and intelligence community face challenges from all angles. Teams must work to meet several evolving modernization mandates while also continuing to deliver on mission requirements. Adversaries are working smarter, launching sophisticated cyberattacks on systems and infrastructure. Agency leaders can feel like they are stuck in the Stone Age with so much legacy technology that needs to be modernized and no clear path to move ahead.
Review process bottlenecks also pose a problem by slowing delivery, delaying innovation, and preventing teams from quickly updating dated applications. Agencies need a trusted, reliable way to modernize and develop applications quickly to deliver on mission objectives. However, it is difficult to optimize legacy applications that can’t be replaced or turned off and traditional methods of application development are not only slow and risk-averse but also focused on function rather than the value being delivered. Modernizing application development practices will enable faster delivery of mission applications, and the ability to quickly respond to these new threats and changing requirements.
MeriTalk: How do agencies need to change their approach to software development and delivery? Why is this critical to achieving mission goals?
Griffith: The DoD needs to innovate rapidly to meet the pressing demands for capabilities and to give decision-makers the information they need to forge ahead on all fronts, physical and cyber. Modernizing the software supply chain, migrating to a hybrid enterprise cloud environment, and enabling enterprise IT-as-a-service are all key to achieving these outcomes. However, this requires new ways of thinking. Agencies must go beyond technology and also consider the role of their processes and culture.
Agencies need repeatable and defined processes that yield quick value and allow teams to develop and deploy software more reliably. Achieving mission impact requires tight collaboration between development, security, and operations teams with clear delineation of responsibilities and new ways to build automation and speed into the governance process. Not only will these processes help accelerate review processes and approvals, but they will also ensure teams are delivering quality software that meets the needs of the mission.
MeriTalk: When it comes to legacy applications and code, how can agencies innovate while continuing to provide mission-critical services without delay?
Griffith: Teams must identify the most effective systems to deliver quick responses to threats, keep up with changing requirements for user needs, and create a rapid development capability.
There’s no on and off button for legacy applications. They are going to stick around for quite some time, particularly within the DoD. The high-level goal is to get better value from legacy code. There are several approaches that agencies can take. Whether automating, building microservices, or rewriting entire applications, the focus is always on increasing efficiency. The longer it takes to get applications running, the longer it takes to see value in what is being delivered. Updates to existing technology should be made with the mission in mind and a goal of driving rapid value.
MeriTalk: As agencies take steps towards a trusted and reliable supply chain, what role does culture play in their efforts to modernize?
Griffith: Agencies need to rethink not only their technology acquisition, development, and implementation processes, but also their organizational culture. Both must evolve for innovation at scale. Methods and processes are both important, but they also impact the behavior of the teams using them. The policies and capabilities define how teams work. And ultimately, they define the culture of the supply chain.
Rather than focusing on the infrastructure and technology, teams should begin to ask, “what value is being added?” Focus on the problem sets of the customer – the warfighter – and find new, faster ways to deliver on business outcomes. Teams value processes that allow them to meet their objectives faster. That’s really what agile development is about when it comes to modernizing the supply chain.
The goal is to increase the speed and flexibility with which new features and services are delivered. This can only be accomplished when your methodologies and principles are applied across the board – from culture to automation and platform design. Teams must work together to reduce stovepipes and become more agile, delivering mission value and responsiveness through rapid, high-quality IT service delivery.
MeriTalk: How is Red Hat uniquely positioned to help agencies improve their operations and drive digital transformation?
Griffith: Red Hat supports Federal contractors with open-source technology and immutable platforms that enable a reliable software supply chain and power Enterprise IT-as-a-Service. Our solution ecosystem offers a solid foundation for flexibility from the edge to the cloud, allowing teams to leverage existing tools to address key challenges and achieve workloads faster.
Specifically, the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform serves as the basis of a consistent and modern hybrid cloud application development and delivery platform. When implemented alongside cultural and process shifts, OpenShift delivers the enterprise Kubernetes environment to power developer productivity and innovation and a secure environment for modern application development and delivery models, at scale. As a result, the value of the development process increases exponentially, positioning teams as trusted partners with the proven capabilities to support rapid development and updates.
MeriTalk: How do Red Hat solutions help teams accelerate progress? Can you talk to us about how the Open Innovation Labs facilitate long-term change?
Griffith: One of the ways Red Hat helps agencies and their partners accelerate their progress is through Open Innovation Labs. These labs are similar to a residency program where a small team will work with Red Hat engineers to solve a specific problem with hands-on training. The focus is beyond just the technology – it’s about fostering an environment of innovation and applying agile development and DevSecOps methodologies.
Working alongside the Red Hat team, partners can immerse themselves in a new way of doing things and then take the tools and approaches they learned back to their organization. Not only do teams achieve time and cost savings, but they also see improvements to real problems and can apply their knowledge in broader ways – creating long-term cultural change.
As an example, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics worked with Red Hat through the Open Innovation Labs to
transform development processes, speed delivery, and accelerate upgrades to the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighter jets. They successfully accelerated application development and delivery, improved forecasting abilities for future development sprints by 40 percent, eliminated multiple-day design reviews, and accelerated communication capability delivery by three years.
MeriTalk: What advice do you have for agencies starting their modernization journey to transform their software supply chain and support their mission needs?
Griffith: Agencies should realize there’s no silver bullet of technology to restore or fix the challenges they are having in delivering software solutions. It will take a combination of efforts. Agencies and partners need a way to make development and orchestration easier and deliver rapid value by focusing on the problem sets of their warfighter, rather than those of infrastructure. And many times, this requires teams to look beyond the technology at their culture and processes.
Whether containers or Kubernetes, solutions don’t solve problems on their own. They are simply tools. Successful modernization will require agencies to look beyond technology. They must ask how the technology will support the mission, not how the mission will fit the technology.