Mar 10 2017

Army’s New Cloud Contract Is Expected to Spur Data Center Consolidation

A partnership between the Army and IBM is designed to improve security and help transition applications to the cloud.

The Army has well over 1,000 data centers but plans to shutter the vast majority of them. How is it going to do so? By moving applications and data to the cloud, of course.

In January, the Army finalized a long-awaited contract with IBM, worth $62 million, to build, manage and operate a cloud solution at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, near Huntsville, Ala.

“With this project, we’re beginning to bring the IT infrastructure of the U.S. Army into the 21st century,” Army CIO Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell said in a statement. “Cloud computing is a game-changing architecture that provides improved performance with high efficiency, all in a secure environment.”

Initially, IBM will provide the Army with Infrastructure as a Service cloud services, allowing the service branch to spin up computing power on an as-needed basis, saving time and costs. The Army also will begin migrating apps to the private cloud, moving up to 35 in the first year.

However, the long-term implication for the contract is that it will help spur the Army’s closure of hundreds of its data centers, in line with a broader Defense Department push to consolidate the Pentagon’s data centers.

Shifting Data to the Cloud

The contract with IBM will allow the Army to move many systems to the cloud.

Sam Gordy, general manager of the IBM U.S. Federal division, told that the Army has more than 183 individual command and control systems, some of them written in computer code that dates back to the 1970s.

“Those systems aren’t talking to each other, the coding is aging, the people who know how to write the code are retiring, and there's really the need to bring all that forward, to modernize and update it,” he says.

Tim Kleppinger, vice president and senior client partner of IBM U.S. Federal, told that the initial group of apps that will be migrated to the cloud has been selected, and that some of the migration work “will be done by the organizations that actually run the data and some will be done by IBM” or other contractors.

Personnel, logistics, support and some finance apps will be migrated, according to Kleppinger. “Just a lot of legacy applications,” he says. “That is the whole purpose of the cloud: reduce the amount of data, reduce the amount of apps, reduce the number of centers.”

Consolidating the Army’s Data Centers

Indeed, the Army has a goal of shuttering many of its data centers in the years ahead. Former Army Secretary Eric Fanning issued a directive on Jan 10 to shut down data centers, which codifies so-called “enduring sites” and sets up a new governance structure with tasks, schedules and timelines. The directive spells out what the Army needs to do to close 60 percent of the service’s 1,200 data centers by the end of 2018 and 75 percent by 2025.

Ferrell told Federal News Radio in mid-December that the Army had closed about 57 percent of its data centers since fiscal 2011 and will end up closing about 752 by Sept. 30, 2018.

According to Ferrell, the Army’s goal is to reduce that number to 10 enduring sites, with six abroad and four in the continental United States — Fort Carson, Fort Knox, Fort Bragg and Redstone Arsenal.

Kleppinger told that the contract will help the Army “really take data center consolidation seriously.”

“The Army recognizes the advantages of a cloud-based computing environment, which include enhanced mission command, efficient data center consolidation, application rationalization, increased network security and improved interoperability with our mission partners,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder told FCW. “Working with our industry partners, [the Redstone cloud] will be managed by U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, and lessons learned will influence future on-premises cloud instantiations,” he said.

Team Redstone/Flickr

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