Mar 27 2019

DHS Makes Plans for Large-Scale Cloud Migration

The agency wants industry input on how to best make an enterprisewide shift to the cloud without disrupting services.

The Department of Homeland Security is gearing up for a major migration to the cloud, and has sought industry input on how to best make what will be a massive shift in how it manages its IT

Last month, DHS released a request for information on the topic and noted that its internal Cloud Steering Group is managing the implementation of “a federated, enterprise-wide strategy for accelerating the modernization and migration of our IT applications and infrastructure” to the cloud, and is optimizing the agency’s data centers for the cloud. DHS says it is “committed to a hybrid IT, multi-cloud, federated and vendor neutral approach.”

Time is of the essence, since DHS’ Data Center 2 contract expires in June 2020. DHS headquarters and components like Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are all planning to be part of the migration, the RFI notes. 

As of early 2018, DHS had about 100 of 596 application systems (about 17 percent) migrating to or developing in the cloud, and 29 systems (5 percent) in the cloud. As of December 2018, via stretch goals set by and committed to by DHS components, a total of 171 of 628 systems (26 percent) were currently planning, in development, actively migrating or operational in the cloud, and DHS expects that figure to grow for the remainder of this fiscal year and next. 

However, DHS makes clear in the RFI that it is critical that the transition occur without an interruption in services, as FedScoop reports. DHS has sought comprehensive information on “vendor best practices, risk mitigation strategies, lessons learned and methodologies for rapid migration and cutovers from legacy environments with minimal impact to applications.”


Due to the critical nature of some of these applications and services, DHS requires full operational capability of all applications and services during the migration process, thus ensuring a seamless end user migration experience on all devices operating anytime, anywhere,” the RFI states.

There are numerous best practices available from cloud service providers. Microsoft advises organizations to take an incremental risk management approach in the cloud, noting in a post on its website that “governance can mature in parallel to planned deployment (as opposed to growing in parallel to business growth). This is a much more stable model for governance maturity. At each iteration, new assets are replicated and staged. At each release, workloads are readied for production promotion.” 

Oracle notes that organizations can rapidly migrate apps to the cloud via tools like “automated extraction of on-premises custom components to enable analysis of approach for handling in the cloud” and “automated extraction of on-premises configuration and translation to cloud configuration.”

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Learn how embracing a cloud computing architecture can benefit your federal agency. 

The Scope of DHS’ Planned Cloud Migration

DHS says in the RFI that it is very concerned with striking “the right balance between front-end vs. back-end modernization” given the time constraints of the expiration of the Data Center 2 contract and the need to balance the costs of modernization, such as “front-end investment with modernization via reinvesting incremental savings.” 

Additionally, DHS has sought information from industry on the dynamic between centrally managed processes and capabilities that work across all of the agency versus component and program-led approaches. 

DHS wants information on modernizing and migrating the infrastructure and applications in Data Center 2, mainly to commercial cloud service providers, but in some cases to other data centers, including hybrid or private clouds, the RFI states. 

Further, DHS is concerned about the optimization and management of the infrastructure and apps in its other main data center, Data Center 1, and potentially “other government-owned anchor point facilities, including supporting managed services and hybrid and private cloud-related services.” 

DHS recognizes that these two different areas “are distinct, yet overlapping,” according to the RFI.

There are also other factors to consider, such as the modernization of the agency’s WAN, known as OneNet, and the transition to an Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract. Those interconnected efforts “point to potential to leverage information provided towards strategies, approaches, solutions, and procurements aimed more broadly across the DHS enterprise,” the RFI says.

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