DHS claims strides in cloud, enterprise initiatives

The Homeland Security Department is making progress in instituting a suite of IT services built on cloud technology and enterprise infrastructure, designed to save money and cut down on duplicative systems. In doing so, DHS is overcoming hurdles in culture and component stovepipes, according to CIO Richard Spires.

“We all know in government you can’t [achieve efficiencies] in six months or a year; these are multi-year kinds of things we’re trying to achieve,” Spires said June 29 at an ACT-IAC event in Washington. “We’re doing this from a portfolio standpoint by function rather than looking at each one of the components individually. That’s my strategy.”

Spires signaled advances in DHS’ consolidated infrastructure and “as a service” offerings, including e-mail, workplace and business intelligence.

He noted that the agency is “just about there” in its move to OneNet, DHS’ wide-area network infrastructure.

“We’re actually running OneNet, which supports about 250,000 users and 2,000 sites,” he said. “We have the remnants of some old networks, but we’re 99 percent there, and in the next few months will retire the vestiges of old infrastructure.”

Spires also said DHS has shuttered 12 legacy data centers, with 12 more expected to close this year. The final goal will be to shut down 43 data centers by the end of fiscal 2015, moving all operations into two enterprise data centers.

“Overall, it’s going well, but it’s not easy. I think we’re past the cultural barriers for the most part…but this is true exploration when you get into these legacy data centers. No matter what you think you’re walking into, you can probably double the complexity. But we’re making progress and starting to show results.”

In terms of cloud, DHS is splitting what will go into public and private clouds – sensitive in the latter, non-sensitive in the former. Some public-facing web sites, including fema.gov and dhs.gov, are in the process of transitioning to being run in a public cloud. Additionally, the agency is moving to a public, open-source content management system, and has successfully implemented a public application for identity proofing that has been rolled out in all 50 states, he noted.

Internally, a number of more sensitive applications are also moving forward. E-mail as a service is currently being rolled out, with 27,000 users migrated so far, and progress is also being made on customer-relationship management as a service, which is preparing to go live in about half a dozen DHS components, Spires said.

Work is ongoing for internal development and testing as a service – which vendors will be expected to use in the future – and for workplace as a service. The agency is currently working out security and pricing for workplace as a service, which will offer virtual desktop and mobile capabilities, he added.

It’s all part of a more comprehensive plan for enterprise services within DHS and the federal government, Spires emphasized.

“If we implement all these things right – rationalize the IT infrastructure and move away from the traditional desktop, and move into these as-a-service models – we’re seeing some very, very dramatic changes in costs,” he said. “The hardest thing…is trying to get this huge organization we call DHS to look at itself from more of a functional perspective than just from a component-organizational perspective. That’s not an easy thing to do, but I think we’re making some progress.”

NEXT STORY: EPA picks cloud services provider

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