Army reviews current, future data storage needs

The Army thinks it now has sufficient data storage capacity, but it’s worried about the future when additional capacity almost certainly will be needed.

“The current concepts probably are unaffordable,” said Gary Winkler, the Army’s program executive officer for enterprise information systems. “Given that the 2010 to 2015 budgets will go down and the supplemental appropriations will go away, we need to figure out what the right model will be.”

Recent data center consolidation efforts in Columbus, Ohio, and Oklahoma City provide sufficient capacity for the Army’s immediate needs. However, security concerns and future requirements for network-centric services are pushing Army technology managers to consider further consolidation options.

The Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems issued a request for information this month through the General Services Administration.

It is seeking industry best practices for data center consolidation.

“We need to develop a plan as we create the 2010 to 2015 budget view,” Winkler said at a conference in McLean, Va.

“We want to flesh out the possible concepts and what rough funding will be needed.”

The Army managed its first area processing center (APC) consolidation project through the Defense Information Systems Agency, but Winkler said the service wants to know whether it could get a better deal elsewhere. The RFI asks vendors to submit ideas for satisfying the data needs of 1.5 million Army users in six operating regions and four security domains.

Responses are due March 5.

The consolidation of APCs has been the Army’s goal for the past few years. But progress toward that goal has slowed while the service’s new chief information officer, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, assessed the Army’s future needs.

The RFI is a sign the Army is ready to resume its consolidation strategy. “After we evaluate the responses, Lt. Gen. Sorenson will meet with the Army chief of staff on March 15 to discuss recommendations,” Winkler said. The service will develop a concept paper that outlines its APC plans and funding needs.

Winkler said the Army would hold an industry day or begin meeting with industry representatives in late March or early April.

Rusty Lingenfelter, the Army’s chief of information and infrastructure integration, said further APC consolidation would reduce operational costs and improve security. “We need to leverage the architecture of the APCs in such a way as to provide core services such as e-mail, collaboration and storage,” he said.

Lingenfelter added that, as with many technical projects, the major challenges are financial and cultural. “The way the Army receives money does not lend itself to capital investment, even when the return on investment is great,” he said.

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