Optimizing technology from A to Z
The data optimization and consolidation process is only just beginning at the DOD
When it comes to optimizing technology, the Defense Department knows what it takes.
Closing scores of data centers, the major focus of the past few years and still going strong, is just the first step. As defense IT leaders know well, it only gets you so far without consolidating and optimizing other pieces of the puzzle — hardware, applications and networking. If done right, optimizing IT can result in lower costs, increased uptime, greater user satisfaction, better scalability and increased IT responsiveness.
One major area of focus for all defense agencies is hardware. While server virtualization has been under way for years, aging desktops, which are getting harder to manage and troubleshoot, are now a major focus. Many are being replaced by thin clients or zero clients, some connected to entire desktops in the cloud. For example, the Homeland Security Department has a “workplace as a service” model that will provide DHS employees with virtual desktops. Similarly, the Navy has deployed more than 7,000 virtual desktops in the form of zero clients, and the Air Force plans to implement a similar infrastructure by 2014. In some cases, desktops are even being replaced by tablets or other mobile technology. By moving to this model, agencies can drastically reduce the cost of maintaining separate desktop images and improve security because data no longer resides on an employee’s desktop.
Another area ripe for optimization is networking. The Navy, for example, has been looking to consolidate and optimize its networks for several years through programs such as Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services and the Next Generation Enterprise Network. NGEN, for example, will continue to deliver the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet, but with better security and command and control. Its CANES project will consolidate and standardize hundreds of network components across nearly 200 vessels with one common architecture. The Army’s migration to Secret IP Router Network also is optimized for more efficient and secure operations. SIPRNet, which will support about 200,000 users of classified data, has been developed using what the agency calls “pods," each of which can support a specific number of users. This makes the system efficient, scalable and easier to manage.
Application consolidation and modernization also gives DOD agencies a big bang for their buck. For example, the Army is in the midst of taking an inventory of all of its applications.
“The last figure I heard from Gen. Lawrence, the CIO/G6, was that the Army has more than 9,000 applications," said Alex Rossino, a principal research analyst at Deltek, a Herndon,
Va.-based market research firm focused on the federal market. "There are multiple instances of applications doing the same thing, and they are paying for licenses they aren’t using." Rossino said that once the Army finishes its inventory, it will decide what to discontinue and what to save.
The cost of overly priced or unused software licenses alone is staggering, and simply taking stock of the applications it has, along with overlaps and different versions, will go a long way toward reducing costs. The migration of the Army’s unclassified e-mail to the Defense Information Systems Agency, for example, is projected to save about $765 million, according to a report in January by the Army Audit Agency.
DOD as a whole also has IT optimization in its crosshairs. The effort, dubbed the Joint Information Enterprise, is aimed at increasing IT efficiency through network normalization, data consolidation, security, enterprise services and governance. One of the ways the DOD plans to do that is through shared services in many areas, including networking, security, application and data services, and compute resources. In the networking area, that might include replacing individual networks with their own network personnel, security stacks and hardware with enterprise networks. In the area of compute resources, it means sharing access to computing as an on-demand service. In the area of security, it might mean that agencies would retire aging security systems and equipment and adopt a consolidated DOD security architecture that standardizes equipment, improves security and simplifies management.