DHS offers e-mail services via private cloud

Agency moves further along with data-center consolidation plans

The Homeland Security Department will provide e-mail-as-a service through a private cloud platform to its various components and agencies as part of data-center consolidation efforts, Richard Spires, DHS' chief information officer, told attendees at a conference on public-sector data centers today.

“We just signed a deal to provide e-mail-as-a-service capability in our own data centers,” Spires said. “We looked at the cloud offerings provided by outsiders. Right now, for a number of reasons, we decided to keep it in-house."

“Call it private cloud or what you want,” he added, “but we are offering capabilities now above your standard data-center kind of capabilities that will over time look more like a private cloud offering within DHS itself.”

DHS is on track to move 24 data centers into two large-scale centers by 2014, Spires said. One data center, located at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, is managed by Computer Sciences Corp.; the other is located in southern Virginia and hosted by Hewlett-Packard.

“We are driving toward providing a common operating environment, a common virtualized environment,” Spires said.

DHS officials are not averse to moving applications to outside cloud computing providers, he said. But like their counterparts at many government agencies, they are concerned about privacy and security issues related to moving applications to public cloud providers. DHS is working with the government’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which is designed to certify and accredit cloud computing products and services. FedRAMP could boost agencies' trust in cloud providers that have been vetted by the government.

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Spires, who spoke at a conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by DatacenterDynamics, also gave an update on the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative.

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra asked Spires and Michael Duffy, who at the time was CIO of the Treasury Department, to coordinate the government's data-center consolidation efforts. Duffy has since moved on to the Justice Department and will play less of a role in coordinating those efforts, Spires said.

Agencies had to prepare inventories of their IT assets by April 30. Based on that information, they then had to submit draft plans for consolidating their data centers by the end of June. In July, agencies had to turn in their final asset inventories. That data is still being reviewed, Spires said.

The final baseline consolidation plans are due today.

Spires said DHS will be working with the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget to analyze those plans and provide feedback. Officials will also check to see that the plans are aligned with fiscal 2012 budget requests.

By the end of this calendar year, OMB will approve the plans and the initiative will move into execution mode, Spires said.

“This isn’t about doing it in a year,” he added, noting that DHS’ plan is to consolidate data centers by 2014. “We asked for plans that are aggressive but realistic and agency-specific. We haven’t tried to do this across the federal government with one plan.”

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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