What's slowing down DOD's data center consolidation?

The Defense Department is working through a variety of barriers, including legacy tech and cloud requirements, as it continues its effort to consolidate data centers.

Shutterstock image: black data center with white floors and ceiling.
 

The slow pace of consolidating Defense Department data centers was one of the primary sources of frustration for former DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen. But acting CIO John Zangardi is taking a more glass-half-full approach.

"There are a lot of barriers -- they are not unreasonable," Zangardi said at the AFCEA Army IT day. "Some of the barriers are related to the age of the data that they are storing, the age of the systems and modifying that and bringing it over."

Zangardi said that the DOD is meeting program targets for consolidation, despite the numerous barriers -- modernization being one of the bigger ones. "That drives cost, that drives schedule," he said.

In addition to sorting through old data and systems that require modernization in order to move the data, getting the DOD to move to the cloud is also a barrier.

"We have met with several vendors over the last couple of months, and I've tasked my team to look at the policy for the cloud. And right now, industry and some folks view [Cloud Access Point] as a bottleneck," he said.

"Can CAP be provided as a service?" he asked. "Keep in mind that even if you're level 4 or level 5 certified, most vendors out there still have a back door to the internet. We have to make sure that our data is protected from that back door to the internet. That was the purpose of the CAP in the simplest terms."

Zangardi said that one option is for DOD to set a standard for vendors to build to so they provide "the same data invisibility as the current CAP."

Other barriers to data center consolidation include reassigning the workforce. "Who becomes interested in the movement of that workforce? That's an issue," he said.

Zangardi told FCW that military workers at data centers are relatively easy to move through new orders.

"Civilians are a little bit more challenging because every civilian has a particular position description so you have to find a way to move them into a different occupation," he said. "It's a doable thing, but repurposing takes a little longer there."

In addition, as he learned during his time working on data center consolidation for the Navy, Zangardi said there is often resistance because people want their servers close by. "They like to have their control of whatever it is they have."

The DOD's data center consolidation team is in the process of compiling the data and developing recommendations from its site visit to San Antonio. Once that is done, the team will likely visit a center in Hawaii to assess consolidation prospects there.

Although some officials have worried about possible pushback from members of Congress who do not want to see data centers close in their districts and jobs leave, Zangardi said the CIO’s office has not seen any such resistance.

"We might, but I think folks realize that to get to savings and do what industry is doing, we have to move forward with consolidation," he said.

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