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Navy eyes commercial facilities for data hosting

Updated plan targets over 12,000 servers

Nov. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Sailors work on laptops at the Center for Information Dominance.
Sailors work on laptops at the Center for Information Dominance. (Navy)


The Navy is developing an aggressive plan to close scores of data centers and move its military data to secure commercial facilities.

Specifically, the service is evaluating a modified strategy to consolidate more than 12,000 servers and expand its original scope of 67 facility closures that currently host Navy business applications and systems, according to a recent request for information.

The RFI does not specify whether the Navy has revised its goal for data center closures over the next five years but it expects to release more details at a Nov. 20 industry day.

The Navy’s original data center plan entailed consolidating 4,932 servers by fiscal 2017, but now the service wants to nearly triple that number. Last fiscal year, 22 sites and 1,218 servers were targeted for consolidation.

In its RFI, the Navy said that “in order to achieve the anticipated cost savings, the Navy seeks to leverage commercial industry [data center consolidation] experience and expertise, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Navy data centers, and expand the use of commercial hosting opportunities.”

“The future execution strategy will maximize commercial industry skills, capabilities, and competition,” according to the RFI.

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is leading the effort.

The Navy’s ability to meet cost- saving goals over the next five years will be the main metric of success for data center consolidation. The RFI doesn’t say how much the Navy expects to save, but noted that accelerated savings will be achieved through manpower reductions, standardizing and consolidating information technology systems and applications, and using alternate data hosting environments.

But it often takes money to save money in government.

Calculating and capturing savings isn’t easy, said Dan Chenok, executive director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government. Funding to support IT programs and initiatives can come from multiple sources.

Agencies have to understand the cost of ownership for their IT investments, where money comes from today and where the savings will accrue tomorrow, said Chenok, a former Office of Management and Budget branch chief who oversaw federal IT policy and IT budgeting. They also have to know where those savings can be redirected, he said.

The Navy spent $10.7 million in fiscal 2012 to improve the health and security of its systems. That same year, 26 percent of the Navy’s servers required security remediation, and most of the systems targeted for consolidation that year weren’t fit to move to Navy Enterprise Data Centers, according to the Navy.

The service also found that systems administrators were not performing required scans and implementing measures to mitigate vulnerabilities.

Before organizations began virtualizing applications, people focused on a dedicated set of servers, said Edward Hsu, director of product marketing at VMware. The ratio of servers to systems administrators was quite low.

Now, the number of people required to maintain servers has dropped, and those employees can focus on more strategic projects, Hsu said.

A 2009 study found the Navy had 119 data centers, including Navy Marine Corps Intranet and non-NMCI facilities, according to documents provided by the Navy. The count did not include centers for the Outside the Continental United States Navy Enterprise Network (ONE-NET).

In addition to commercial facilities, the Navy is also considering what applications can migrate to Navy Enterprise Data Centers, Defense Information Systems Agency facilities and NMCI hosting sites. Any system engineering and integration efforts used by industry must align with NMCI and Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) environments, according to the RFI.

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