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November 10, 2016
Defence organisations: Do you know where your data lives?
By: Dr Valtteri Vuorisalo

Mission effectiveness and force superiority in defence rely on getting the right data to the right place at the right time in the right way. Most defence organisations have realised that it is not just a matter of using a cable to connect two servers. We must also think about format, standards and other obstacles. Data is huge and complex, but it must seamlessly flow from Point A to Point B. This transition is no simple task, but it can be successful when done pragmatically.

I like to compare this data journey to imagining, building and living in a house. To get your “data house” in order, you must first understand the home in which you are living. What is the shape, fit and condition of your data? Chances are, you are ready to move out of your current situation—or significantly refurbish it. So the logical next step is, imagine the house where you want to live.

Do you need to tear down walls within your current structure? For instance, is your data locked up in siloes that don’t support the overall structure? Defence organisations must allow information to flow in a controlled environment, so perhaps you need to do some remodeling and establish monitored access control points to enable that control. It is important to create a blueprint of your “dream” home so your organisation can plan how to construct this new data environment.


SECURING YOUR HOME

Building the house is a big step, but you must also defend it. That does not necessarily mean putting up a mammoth barbed wire fence. Moreover, it’s about you being able to decide who you will allow to enter your home—and through which door.

Some defence organisations are using military enterprise architecture frameworks, which allow leadership to structure the home and gain clearer awareness of the doors that aren’t sealed, or the missing windows. Identifying these irregularities and vulnerabilities allows your organisation to protect the structure, similar to how a soldier would first need to understand all ways in and out when securing a house.

Across the globe, many forms of military house building initiatives are already taking place:

  • In the United States, defence agencies are creating a Joint Information Environment in which armed services can seamlessly communicate with one another.

  • Similarly, The United Kingdom is moving from multiple stove-piped systems, to a unified, common, core platform and are working to create Defence as a Platform.

  • Accordingly, The Australian Defence Force’s Single Information Environment is one of the largest information and communications technology networks in Australia.

These are all encouraging signs that agencies are actively taking steps to get the right data to the right place at the right time—in the right way.


MOVING FORWARD

I like the home analogy for data because we can all relate. Like building a house, you need to have a vision of the type of house you want, you need an architect to develop the blueprint, you need to understand the terrain you are building on, and you need a clear plan on how you can deliver the desired end result.

Moreover, you need someone to set the foundation. You must build the actual structure with the right materials. With data, this might include data center consolidation, rationalising, harmonising and standardising. And by improving IT security and information assurance, you will secure the property and enable the flow of information in a controlled way.

We spend a lot of time, investment in energy into understanding the enemy in defence. But perhaps Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said it best, “Know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.”[1] Defence agencies must, of course, know their enemies. But it is equally important to understand the terrain where your own data lives.

Where does your data live? Is it safe?

See this post on LinkedIn: Defence organisations: Do you know where your data lives?

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