DLA goes virtual

The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

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Freeing oneself from all earthly possessions might be a spiritual quest for some, but for the Defense Logistics Agency, it just makes business sense.

The agency that manages seven supply chains and 20 global distribution centers is in the process of divesting itself of its IT infrastructure.

And, it is doing so under a new $6 billion indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract -- J6 Enterprise Technology Services -- that the agency awarded in December 2016 to 142 vendors covering 21 task areas over an eight-year period.

"What we expect to achieve with this particular contract is more agility so that we can have different providers provide different solution sets depending on what our needs are," said Kathy Cutler, DLA's director of information operations and CIO, at the AFCEA Warfighter IT Day.

Cutler said that DLA is transitioning to a virtual desktop model, deploying applications such as Office 365 and moving away from laptops.

"The next steps with that will be deploying some more of the capabilities associated with Office 365," she said. "We already have Skype everywhere, we have email just about complete, we will then be moving to Office online tools, SharePoint and OneDrive later this year."

Cutler said DLA deployed iPhones last year and is working to add more business apps and functionality to the devices.

DLA, along with the Department of Defense as a whole, is in the process of consolidating its data centers, and Cutler said that process should be complete by the end of the next fiscal year. DLA intends to reduce to two data centers, and eliminating even these is not out of the question, Cutler said.

For now, all of DLA's mission-critical systems are hosted by DISA, but Cutler said the agency is evaluating all options including commercial to find the right balance of cost, speed and agility. The data center migration is no small task given the vast amounts of data that DLA has and how spread out it is.

"What we're running into when we are doing this is there are things out there that no one really had visibility of," she told FCW. "So when you actually go out and do the inventory of the servers or whatever else that may be there in the data center, we're discovering new applications or new things that nobody was really managing actively in the beginning."

Cutler also said that until recently, the technological solutions were not mature enough for DLA to consolidate. She believes that the solutions either now exist or are close enough that DLA can move aggressively on consolidation.

She said that as the migration progresses, DLA will begin to realize cost savings. She said she also expects repurposing of the workforce once DLA is purchasing services instead of providing them in house.

DLA recently added a chief data officer position, and it is also re-evaluating how it looks at data as a line of business.

"We really are not leveraging data as an asset, so we're trying to change this whole mindset within our organization," she said. Cutler also noted that DLA has created an innovation cell to conduct market research and outreach to academia and industry to further evaluate how it can modernize its systems and practices.

At the same time, the agency is in the process of carrying out its cyber resiliency integration plan to evaluate its supply chain and vendors to ensure they are meeting cybersecurity standards and can continue providing uninterrupted service to DLA.

"We are now trying to identify what we consider to be key cyber terrain to include what those suppliers own and their behaviors and practices," she said.

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