Army moves closer to IT consolidation

The Army is moving ahead with plans to consolidate information technology user services in centralized Area Processing Centers, which will host a variety of common services, such as e-mail, Web services and storage-area networks. Two APCs are under construction and will have initial operating capabilities later this year.

The Army is installing equipment at APCs in Oklahoma City and Columbus, Ohio, which will be the first two active centers. The Oklahoma City APC will be ready in September, and the Columbus one will go active in November, said Joe Capps, director of Enterprise Systems Technology Activity, a division of the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom).

The Army hopes the new centers will improve user services by simplifying network management, increasing security and reducing wait times while lowering IT ownership costs.

The Army Garrison Rock Island Arsenal will be the first installation to move its IT user services to an APC. The migration of services from the arsenal will begin in late September or early October, Capps said. A second unit, at Fort Riley, Kan., will begin moving services in December or January 2007.

The implementation of the APCs will occur in two phases. Phase 1 consists of opening the first two APCs and migrating services from two installations. Phase 2 begins after the first two achieve full operating capability. Phase 2 will involve consolidating services from multiple installations across the continental United States.

No workforce shifts will occur when IT services move to APCs. The centers will run “lights out” or at least “lights dim,” meaning that only minimal on-site maintenance employees will be necessary. Both APCs will be near other data centers so employees can take on part-time maintenance work, too, Capps said.

The Continental U.S. Theater Network Operations and Security Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., will remotely operate most APC functions. The Defense Information Security Agency will be the facility operator at each site, according to a Netcom press release.

In total, the Army expects six APCs to cover the continental United States, Capps said, although that number could change. The limiting factor in determining coverage is bandwidth over the network rather than the size of the APCs or the number of servers at any site. The Army envisions as many as 14 APCs worldwide.

When the Army unveiled it in June 2005, the APC program provoked fear that local IT workers would lose their jobs. But increased efficiencies may enable those workers to devote more time to IT services at their installations.

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