​Australian Signals Directorate on the hunt for a cyber partner

The Australian Signals Directorate is seeking to establish a 'strategic partnership' with a service provider that will take on some of its workforce load and infrastructure growth.

The Australian Defence Strategic Policy and Intelligence (SP&I) Group has published an Invitation to Register (ITR) on behalf of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), searching for a private sector partner that would be willing to "work collaboratively" within ASD's Cyber Program.

The ASD lies within the SP&I Group and is the national agency responsible for the collection, analysis, and distribution of foreign signals intelligence, and it is also the national authority on communications and computer security.

The ITR asks for a service provider that is interested in forming a long-term working relationship with the ASD, and one that can provide a workforce to establish or reconfigure the ASD's IT infrastructure, including its servers, network, storage, operating systems, PCs, applications, databases, and middleware.

Additionally, the ASD is anticipating its servers to total 150, with 20 initially in place. With this, the ASD also expects its total storage requirement to sit at 10 petabytes, with its current state using only 200 terabytes.

The number of virtual machines is to also increase from 100 to 1,000; end points are to grow by 500 to 600; and 250 total user accounts are also required.

It is expected that the requested infrastructure be a mixture of private, public, hybrid cloud, and on-premises.

"The Cyber Program is engaged in virtualising its processing and storage technologies and is utilising cloud-based solutions to increase flexibility, scalability, and improve value for money from its ICT capabilities," the ITR says. "It is expected that the service provider would be able to support cloud-based environments and develop secure cloud-based solutions -- organically or partnering with cloud providers."

The ASD has specified that the successful service provider be capable of supporting its existing systems, and be proficient in areas including the administration of Windows, Linux, database administration, and network administration. It is also expected that the provider's support personnel will work closely with the government's system developers.

As part of this, the successful third party will also take on the expected growth of the ASD's IT environments to 15, with the Service Support scope initially expected to consist of approximately three environments at the protected classification level at ASD premises.

According to the ITR, an IT environment will involve the processing of significant volumes of data, at high rates and rapid access to very large data stores.

The ITR says that the cybersecurity mission requires a capability for technical users to conduct cybersecurity activities from an accredited, audited, corporately sustained environment at both "unclassified" and "protected" security levels.

"The capability will enable the cyber security mission to undertake new and existing activities in support of Government mandates and Australia's national and economic security objectives," the ITR says. "These activities include cyber security, and hosting of services for cyber security customers."

The ITR closes on October 14, 2016, with shortlisted service providers invited to respond to the request for tender by January 9, 2017.

When Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched the country's cybersecurity strategy in April, he announced he was going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars defending Australia from foreign cyber attacks, which he said would create around 100 jobs.

Two weeks out from the federal election earlier this year, Turnbull also warned against outsourcing government services, saying at the time that government could find itself without sufficient internal talent as a result.

Turnbull pointed to the creation of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO), which was established early last year when he was communications minister, as proof that he does not wish to look to outsourcing.

"It has the culture of a startup but it is within government and its aim is to, within government, transform the delivery of government services, rather than spending enormous amounts of money on big private firms and outside systems integrators and outsourcers," Turnbull said previously.