DHS Sees Value in Cloud Shift as It Consolidates Data Centers

The Department of Homeland Security is being forced to reconsider its data storage model as it shutters smaller data centers.

Department of Homeland Security officials have, in the past, cited the operational efficiencies and cost savings of moving to the cloud. The cloud shift also represents an opportunity for DHS to rationalize its data storage strategy

The Office of Management and Budget’s new “Cloud Smart” strategy, as well as ongoing efforts to close and consolidate data centers, is pushing DHS to reexamine how and where it stores data across the sprawling agency. 

“There’s a lot of thought being put across what is the operating model for storage for the Department of Homeland Security,” Steve Rice, the DHS’ deputy CIO, said earlier this month at MeriTalk’s Data Center Brainstorm event in Washington, D.C., Federal News Radio reports

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out why federal cloud spending soared in fiscal year 2018! 

DHS Moves to Rethink Data Storage via Cloud

By June 2020, Federal News Radio reports, DHS’ Data Center 1 (DC 1) and Data Center 2 (DC 2) contracts will both expire. DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa said in August that DHS is starting to work on the strategy to recompete those contract vehicles.

However, DHS is plowing ahead on its cloud migration as part of its data center consolidation strategy. DHS has met OMB’s mandate to close six of its large tiered data centers, but must still close an additional 19 nontiered data systems before October 2020.

“When we look at it, the evolution of the cloud allows us to think about where the elasticity of our model moves out to public cloud services, and then also ensuring that we understand an inventory, a rationalization of our applications to understand what are the applications and services that would move,” Rice said, according to Federal News Radio. 

The expiring contracts for its main data centers, located in Stennis, Miss., and south-central Virginia, are forcing DHS to reconsider its data storage strategy and where it wants to put data, according to Rice.

“Let’s make some smart decisions, make sure that they simplify the architecture, let’s make sure that we’re understanding where we’re going to compute together so we can start making informed decisions about the analytical needs that might materialize over the next several years,” he said. 

Rice said DHS must use emerging technologies that are “either on the horizon or just coming past the horizon now” as it looks to cloud storage. He added that it is “only a matter of time” until artificial intelligence becomes a bigger part of the discussions among federal IT leaders, but he also said it is difficult to plan for the technology tools agencies will need in the medium to long term. 

“It’s kind of hard to think about what the next 15 to 16 years of governance are going to be,” Rice said, according to Federal News Radio. “The technology is still emerging, especially at the pace that they’re coming out. Cloud Smart to us is taking advantage where it makes sense for the mission.”

Rice noted that such decisions need to involve a wide range of agency stakeholders beyond CIOs.

“It can’t just be an IT decision,” Rice said. “There’s a lot of work that goes on to inform the Chief Financial Officer community, the Chief Procurement Officer community, the Chief Human Capital Officer community to understand that as technology shifts, it really transforms how we deliver services and it starts with the people and ends with the mission.”

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Nov 26 2018