Black Pearl Accelerates Software Development Across the Navy

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The core of the store’s mission focuses on improving service development and acquisition as part of the DevSecOps transformation.

U.S. Navy leaders tour the guided-missile destroyer USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, June 16, 2022. Photo Credit: US Marine Corps / DVIDS

Keeping software development afloat at the US Navy comes with its own set of challenges, but Black Pearl is the service’s newest ship working to take that modernization to the next level.

The Department of Defense has dozens of software factories that play an important role in implementing the DevSecOps culture in the company. But as Black Pearl says, it’s more than that – calling itself “software practice”. This means the team builds the platform-to-development workforce to drive the technology of the naval enterprise forward.

At first, there were procedural and technical hurdles when it came to reaching consensus on how Black Pearl wanted to approach DevSecOps software modernization for a large enterprise like the Navy, including tool choices. , building things to deploy the cloud and trying to build a really secure platform. , Black Pearl chief engineer Manuel Gauto told GovCIO Media & Research.

“We had to work through some of the compliance and accreditation issues that come with working at DOD, where we spend most of our effort on the early parts of Black Pearl,” Gauto said of founding Black Pearl there. only a year ago. “Getting the contract in place, getting accreditation, and working through some of the procedural issues of delivering a solution that will work for the [Department of the Navy] rapidly.”

False starts are one of the greatest software development challenges facing the Navy today.

According to Gauto, the main thesis behind Black Pearl was how to trivialize all the things that need to happen in the beginning, like spinning up a development environment and setting up integrations between different tools to enable CI/CD pipelines.

“We hope to commoditize all of these tools, so people can skip that step and focus on what DevSecOps and modern software development look like in the context of my program – whether underwater, surface or airborne. “, said Gauto. “We really try to make sure that people can focus directly on their mission rather than having to solve a more general problem that is outside their expertise.”

Black Pearl has enabled the Navy to improve secure data sharing through a key partnership.

“GitLab provides source code management, artifact management, and collaboration elements. We are introducing real-time chat functionality to enable chat in both the contracting community and the government, as flank speed is not as easily available in DOD,” Gauto said.

Gauto also talked about managing big data for things like artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as building data lakes and connecting sensor networks.

“What we’re looking at now is how to take what we’ve built so far and the toolkit we have and allow mission data to be shared more easily between operators and people who are more ashore trying to figure out how to operate more efficiently? Gauto said.

Black Pearl is also helping the Navy transform these business processes to ensure agility is built into every step of software procurement.

Gauto said Black Pearl is working to find a common language to enable contractors to efficiently procure the services they need to modernize their programs.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to acquire these services and how does the government manage them effectively to ensure they’re delivered in a way that will lead to the results everyone wants,” Gauto said. “We tried to use Black Pearl itself as an example of how to get an organization up and running quickly, how you can get services, how you can promulgate it in the community, and how how you can sustain something like this for the long term. ”

Meanwhile, Kessel Run’s chaos engineering practices have also played a role in how Black Pearl drives software development within the department.

“We took the work that Kessel Run did both in terms of their playbooks and the technology that they had, and packaged it into department-specific and more refined tools and approaches for the DOD as in its together, then turning around and offering it to the community so they can easily consume it and apply it to their specific agenda,” Gauto said.

There’s a much larger community that will try to leverage the lessons learned at Kessel Run, noted Bob Stevens, GitLab’s public sector vice president. The Armed Services Committee has recommended that the General Services Administration (GSA) evaluate what Kessel Run has done for use in all civilian agencies — so much broader than the DOD.

“When it comes to Black Pearl, everything they do is very forward thinking, and it’s fun to be a part of that because we see them do things that other organizations haven’t been able to. accomplish within the DOD,” Stevens said. .

Gauto thinks the key to success for things like Black Pearl and Kessel Run is collaboration both within traditional DOD and bringing in outside expertise.

“Another thing we’re trying to show with Black Pearl is how closely government can work with contractors and suppliers to build something that really helps and can really change the way things are done,” Gauto said. . “It can sometimes be daunting to watch the challenges DOD faces, and it’s easy to lose hope, so it’s important to realize how important everyone working together can be to truly make a difference.”

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