DevOPS solution drives improved services for USFS
Federal / public sector; information technology services for the U.S. Forest Service.
Within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is responsible for managing more than 193 million acres of land with a goal of preserving the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands. With a team of more than 35,000 full-time and seasonal employees, technology plays a vital role in the productivity and communication of geographically dispersed teams as well as advancing the USFS’s mission.
The federal datacenter supporting mission-critical IT assets as well as USFS business and application development services uses a combination Microsoft Windows as well as Redhat Linux servers. Services, however, were perceived as slow, inconsistent, and highly frustrating for end users. For example, agile application development processes were stalled by slow operational procedures, application releases could take up to two months, and provisioning durations lasted up to four weeks and were prone to errors.
As part of a large modernization project, Cynerge was tasked with modernizing the USFS’s datacenter service and retiring legacy data centers while also implementing a solution that improved provisioning efforts and enabled application updates to meet business needs, ensure operational readiness, and satisfy security compliance.
While there were many barriers to this project, the biggest challenge was setting up and configuring datacenter services using a new hosting provider. Provisioning of environments within the legacy solution took more than a month to complete, was very manual in terms of process and handoff, and resulted in errors and security vulnerabilities.
“The legacy processes in use by the USFS were suited to a legacy operating model that didn’t leverage the opportunities that agile and DevSecOps approaches offer,” said Cynerge Consulting President Matt Russell. “Tasks were handled via ‘swivel-chair’ integration and manual handoffs with a lot of downtime between the actual work.”
Cynerge Consulting, located in Pontiac, Mich., specializes in application development, IT modernization, and IT asset management. For more than a decade, Cynerge has served as a contractor on a wide-range of IT-oriented needs in support of the USFS, including agile development and operations procedures to government compliance and security standards.
Cynerge and its partners identified several gaps in the operational state of the USFS, resulting in a revised set of operational processes that were defined and presented. Using a solution built on ServiceNow, Puppet Enterprise, Github, and Jenkins, Cynerge helped the USFS break down silos and streamline its provisioning process. With Github, all source code, for both the application as well as infrastructure configurations, are automated, version controlled, and readily reusable. The infrastructure configurations for the datacenter were defined, controlled, and monitored using Puppet Enterprise, ensuring new hosting environments could be configured quickly with authority-to-operate controls in place. Jenkins, with test-driven development, was implemented to ensure application builds in a quality and timely manner. This helped the USFS deploy changes to applications on secure infrastructure services in mere minutes with more quality and less downtime. The solution was implemented in phases alongside the USFS team.