DoD Data Center Consolidation Should Offer a Wealth of Guidance

Arthur Cole
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Just How Strategic is the Cloud?

Most see cloud computing as a strategic move, but security is still a prime concern.

As far as data center consolidations go, this one is a doozy.

The Department of Defense finalized plans this week to reduce its IT infrastructure by nearly a third by 2015, a move that will shutter close to 250 data centers and greatly increase its reliance on private cloud computing and multiple-branch data environments. The move is intended to shave more than $5 billion of its annual $38.4 billion IT budget. The current infrastructure employs about 170,000 people, but there was no word on the level of staff reductions envisioned by planners.

The program is part of a government-wide effort spearheaded by the Office of Management and Budget to reduce data infrastructure costs without diminishing IT capabilities or response times. That program could close the doors on more than 800 government data centers around the world. The U.S. Army is likely to see a particularly dramatic change with more than 185 centers targeted for closure.

A key element of the Pentagon's plan is the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the heart of a private cloud service that could serve as host for everything from infrastructure like servers and desktops to operating systems, middleware and applications. The DoD has released a "DISA first" strategy in which branches and agencies will look into DISA hosting and service before implementing other solutions. So far, the Air Force, Army and Defense Logistics Agency have signed on.

A consolidation project of this magnitude is unlikely to go off without a hitch. However, the Pentagon says it has already learned a few lessons by watching the consolidation programs of other federal entities. For instance, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently began integrating its legacy infrastructure into Homeland Security's, a move that called for consolidation first followed by integration. The Pentagon is taking the opposite tack: broad standardization first, right down to the desktop in some cases, before attempting large-scale resource migration.

With many private sector enterprises looking to consolidate their infrastructure as well, the DoD project will no doubt produce its fair share of cautionary tales. As military leaders are fond of saying: once the battle starts, throw out all the plans. Fortunately, as a public agency, the Defense Department should be more transparent than most as to what went right and what went wrong.

And for the vendor community, now may be a good time to apply for or update your security clearance.

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