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Rodney Alto served 35 years as a senior executive in technology at the Central Intelligence Agency. He’s now a senior advisor for federal strategy and security at Forward Networks. 

What is one of largest challenges today in IT? It’s not AI, quantum computing, or even cyber—it’s technical debt. If technical debt is something you have never heard of, you’re not alone, but I encourage you to engage your CIO, CISO, and IT Managers on this topic; it’s one of those topics that causes technologists to take pause, gasp for air, and then share the dark secrets of technical debt at your company, Agency, or Department. 

But what is technical debt? If technical debt is new to you, the easiest way to articulate technical debt is it’s all the hardware and software within your organization that is currently at End-of-Life (EoL) or End-of-Support (EoS) and what infrastructure will become EoL or EoS in the next 12-months. The technical debt problem is both a historical and a forward-looking challenge, and the technical debt challenge is never completely solved, as equipment goes EoS/EoL almost every day. For this reason, technical debt needs to be continuously managed.   

Technical debt is also a cumulative challenge—how many times has your organization decided to push infrastructure investments to the right? Unfortunately, when technical debt is not being addressed systematically every year, it grows exponentially and can get out of control very quickly, negatively impacting operational readiness, infrastructure resiliency, and cyber readiness. 

Technical debt is a universal and pervasive challenge within IT; it affects Public/Private sectors equally and is one of the greatest self-induced cyber risks in the enterprise. Legacy hardware and unpatched software is the easy button every cyber bad actor is looking for; an unpatched or EoL router, switch, or firewall with well documented vulnerabilities provides an easy path to compromising your network. By addressing technical debt systematically, you can exponentially reduce your cyber vulnerabilities, improve operational readiness, and decrease unplanned infrastructure outages. 

The dark truth about technical debt is that most IT and cyber managers do not know how much technical debt their organizations have. But wait, you say, we have a CMDB—and the answer would be “yes”, but if you press the IT and Cyber teams, you will find the CMDB’s are not accurate, as many do not collect against all vendor equipment, do not contain information from mission/business networks, and often do not collect information on products like firewalls.   

There is a solution—if you have not heard of Forward Networks, I would encourage you to reach out to Forward Networks for a discussion on technical debt. The Forward Networks platform is the industry leader in collecting authoritative vendor agnostic data on all aspects of your network enterprise and any unique mission/business systems networks. The FN platform passively collects this data, with no agents required, normalizes the data across approximately 30 network vendors, and allows you to easily query the Forward Networks platform to develop authoritative and timely reports on the technical debt within your enterprise or mission/business environments. Forward Networks is also an API first platform; we integrate with products like ServiceNow to better populate your organization's enterprise CMDB. 

Forward Networks is the industry leader in providing timely, accurate, and continuous monitoring of your network enterprise. Forward Networks is happy to work with your company, Agency, or Department to provide you the data insights each enterprise manager needs to make data driven and timely decisions based on authoritative data that is easily available. 

To learn more about how Forward Enterprise helps with Inventory Management, read the use case.

I’ve been fortunate enough to serve my country as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service (SIS) in the Central Intelligence Agency. As a kid growing up in northern Minnesota, a career at the CIA seemed an impossible dream, and yet I was able to serve my country and our allies around the world for 35 years.  

All too quickly, I found myself ready for retirement from the government but not ready to retire. I had developed so many technical and leadership skills that I was ready for another challenge, but I was unsure of how to transition to the private sector. In the CIA we had a saying, “We are the nation’s first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.”

I couldn’t go from a role like that to just any job. I needed to work in an environment that was making changes in the way businesses function, a company that embraced the same mentality that nothing is too hard. At the same time, I wanted to join an organization that would respect my experience, offer new growth opportunities, and be filled with smart, quality people.

I’d met David Erickson, the CEO of Forward Networks, and I knew this company was delivering a new category of technology, which is challenging to say the least. David expressed interest in having me join the company to focus on federal strategy and security. Now that I’ve been with the company for nearly 3 months, I know I made the right choice. The passion reminds me of my team at the CIA with a focus on innovation, commitment, collaboration, and integrity. My experience is valued and I’m already able to contribute to the company in a meaningful way. 

I see the mission at Forward Networks as, “We are the network’s first line of defense, we accomplish what other companies cannot accomplish, and we go where other companies have not gone.” Being part of this is exciting. The company is financially stable having just closed $50 million in Series D funding, and we’re hiring.

If you’re serving in the federal sector today as a government employee or a contractor, we’d like you to consider joining us – your experience will be valued, and you’ll continue to be challenged. Click here to explore career opportunities. 

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