DOD taking "DISA first" strategy in data center consolidation efforts

DOD is focusing on DISA IT services, core data centers as it pursues efficiencies and data center consolidation, according to its new progress report.

The Defense Department has released its data center consolidation progress report and strategy, and among its approaches to streamlining IT infrastructure is a new, long-term policy to turn to the Defense Information Systems Agency to provide IT and data services.

DOD is also focusing on “core” data centers that will absorb the functions of data centers scattered throughout the department and its components, allowing those other data centers to be closed down.

“The purpose of consolidation is to optimize DOD computing centers and establish core data centers to support critical enterprise services,” according to the report, which is dated Nov. 8 but appears to have been released on or around Nov. 23. “DOD and its [components] are considering all options for achieving consolidation that includes migrating infrastructure to DISA enterprise computing centers, valid commercial options to reduce costs of IT services, cross-component co-hosting [and] virtualization/cloud computing, to name a few.”

So far, the Air Force, Army and the Defense Logistics Agency have adopted the “DISA first” strategy, meaning those agencies will consider DISA for application and data hosting before pursuing any other solutions, the report read. DISA’s ability to offer hosting and IT services would reduce the need for local contractor support and services, although those options still may be considered under circumstances where DISA services aren’t practical.

DOD as a whole and the service components have all made strides in consolidating their numerous, often redundant data centers, and the progress thus far was provided as part of broader efforts under the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative. The other 23 agencies that are part of the federal CIO council provided their own progress reports by the Oct. 7 deadline set forth by the Office of Management and Budget.

According to DOD’s progress report, the department originally identified 52 data centers to shutter in fiscal 2011, and another seven were added to the list. Currently, all but four of the 59 data centers slated for shutdown are on schedule. The report estimates that DOD’s overall efficiencies efforts, of which the data center consolidations are part of, will help the department save more than $1 billion annually by fiscal 2016, and additionally more than $3 billion over the future years defense between 2013 and 2018.

The Army’s initial goal is to close 185 data centers by fiscal 2015, with more to be considered after that point. The Air Force plans to reduce its data centers by 47 percent by fiscal 2015, while the Navy is looking to shutter half of its own data centers in the same timeframe. The Marines are focusing on deploying enterprise services and applications through its Marine Corps Enterprise Information Technology Services.

Meanwhile, the DLA will seek to cut 75 percent of its servers and 90 percent of its own data centers, and the Military Health Systems is targeting a 70 percent reduction in data centers over a five-year timeframe.

The consolidation efforts haven’t been without struggles, though. DOD’s report was delayed by the department’s sheer mass of inventory and challenges in coordinating with the various, disparate stakeholders that must be engaged in the process, according to DOD spokesperson Lt. Col. April Cunningham.

Budget uncertainty is also making it difficult to see into the future, even as near-term as fiscal 2012, according to the report.

“Continuing budget resolutions have delayed the implementation of consolidation plans. Funding is a major risk factor to data center consolidation,” the report noted. “Although significant savings are expected in future years, those savings cannot be borrowed to fund required investments for consolidating data centers. Consolidation requires an investment in labor, new and more efficient hardware, upgrades to computer facilities, and increased operating costs when some legacy systems run in parallel with new systems.”

Still, despite the challenges and lessons learned, the “DISA first” strategy is being seen as a beacon, according to the report.

“DOD has learned several lessons through this initiative. One encouraging sign is the willingness of DOD components to adopt a ‘DISA first’ strategy to transfer applications and infrastructure to a shared service provider,” the report read.

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