Likely to miss data center goals, Army issues stringent new plan for closures

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Secretary Eric Fanning has laid out an explicit plan for the Army to achieve its data center closure and consolidation goals by 2018 — an effort that has otherwise made little progress in the past two years.

The Defense Department, as part of its larger requirement to meet the 2010 Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (now superseded by the Office of Management and Budget’s Data Center Optimization Initiative), directed the Army to consolidate 60 percent of its nearly 1,200 data center by fiscal 2018, matching the Pentagon’s overall goal for consolidation.

After early success consolidating about 30 percent of its data centers through fiscal 2015, creating a large gap between its progress and that of the other military branches, the Army’s efforts have slowed. The Army said in 2016 it expected to close only an additional 140 data centers between fiscal years 2016 and 2018, which would be well short of its goal.

“[P]rogress in system and application virtualization and rationalization has been slow, and our data center closure and consolidation efforts have come to a virtual standstill,” Fanning wrote in a recently released memo.

The Army, he says, spends too much of its more than $8 billion IT budget on applications and systems it does not need when instead it should be working to make its networks more efficient and reduce potential vulnerabilities.

“Every IT system and application presents a potential attack surface to those wishing to affect our readiness to respond when required,” Fanning wrote. “We can no longer afford the luxury of unconstrained IT expenses nor accept the risk to the Army and the Nation posed by cyber threats directed against Army capabilities.”

In the memo, Fanning introduces a revised plan for Army commands to migrate systems and applications to core hosting environments, and consolidate the remaining unnecessary data centers, particularly installation processing nodes and special purpose processing nodes.

Fanning’s memo explicitly lists hundreds of qualifying data centers that should be consolidated .

The plan is to have “all enterprise systems and applications … approved, planned, resourced, and migrated to enterprise hosting environments no later than 30 September 2018,” the memo says.

The entire DOD is struggling in its data center consolidation, however, not just the Army. The department has been criticized for being behind in its data center closure goals after a March 2016 inspector general report found the department had not yet met half its target under the 2010 plan. This led the Pentagon to reevaluate its data center closure efforts and create a data center closure team of subject matter experts.

Army’s systems and applications will be moved to one of a few different locations, with the exception that each Army post, camp or station can maintain one installation processing node, which provide localized services.

Eventually, Fanning envisions an end state of four continental U.S. Army Enterprise Data Centers — at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Redstone Arsenal, Alabama — and six outside of the states, at locations yet to be determined.

By 2025, the Army hopes to launch the Army Private Cloud Enterprise environment, “an on-premises, commercial cloud instantiation that is contractor-owned and contractor-operated” that the Army is piloting at Redstone Arsenal. But for now it will only host approved applications, which have yet to be determined.

The Army will also move its enterprise resource planning systems to the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Defense Enterprise Computing Centers.

Fanning also uses the memo to set a deadline for the service’s adoption of the Microsoft Windows 10 Secure Host Baseline, as mandated by Pentagon CIO Terry Halvorsen last year. Services and components DOD-wide were required to migrate to the platform by the close of 2016. After failing to do so, the Army now has a transition deadline of Jan. 31.

To incentivize agencies in this move, Fanning says in the memo that any savings from ahead-of-schedule consolidations can be reinvested in IT needs, pointing specifically to Windows 10 as a good place to start.

See the memo in its entirety below.

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Army, Cloud Computing & Networking, Cybersecurity, Data centers, Defense & Intelligence, Defense Department, Departments, Eric Fanning, Government IT News, Regulations & Oversight, Tech