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6/2/2010
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Army Outlines Cloud Computing Strategy

Application consolidation and server virtualization are steps in a broader plan to consolidate data centers and offer cloud services across Army operations.

The CIO of the Army has imposed a moratorium on server purchases across Army operations. The move is aimed at stopping the proliferation of single-purpose servers as the Army begins consolidating data centers and creating compute clouds in select data centers.

A memo announcing the moratorium was issued last month by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army's CIO. "We want to review all server purchases" before they're made, said Michael Krieger, deputy CIO of the Army, in an interview with InformationWeek.

With 1.4 million users and an IT budget of approximately $10 billion, the Army is one of the largest IT user organizations in the world. The clamp down on server purchases comes amid a resurgence of server sales to businesses, with server shipments jumping 23% in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier, according to IDC.

The Army wants to exert control over server deployments as it prepares to consolidate data centers and, in the process, convert designated data centers into cloud computing environments that provide shared services across its operations. The Army, which has more than 200 data centers, is in the early stages of implementing that strategy, with funding designated for data center consolidation in its budget plans beginning in fiscal 2012, according to Krieger.

The moves are consistent with Obama administration policy requiring federal agencies to devise data center consolidation plans and encouraging the use of cloud computing as a potentially cheaper and more efficient way of providing IT services to government employees.

Phase one of the Army's data center consolidation initiative involves relocating data centers from Fort Belvoir (Virginia) and U.S. Army Forces Command (Georgia) to Redstone Arsenal (Alabama) and Fort Bragg (N.C). Those changes are tied to the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, which involves shifting Army personnel and resources among bases and closing 14 facilities. Fort Knox (Kentucky), which will become the new home of the Army's Human Resources Command, is a "natural location" for a third major data center, Krieger said.

As part of its strategy, the Army is consolidating applications and virtualizing servers. Army Materiel Command, which provides technology and other resources to Army units, has already reduced the number of applications it makes available from more than 200 to about 90.

Given its IT security requirements, the Army is most interested in private clouds. It's considering making an existing business-process application for employee awards available as a shared service. E-mail and enterprise service desk support are other potential cloud services, Krieger said.

The Army will also tap into cloud services made available by the Defense Information Systems Agency. One such service already in use by the Army is Defense Connect, a DISA-managed version of Adobe's Acrobat Connect collaboration software. The Army is also using DISA's Rapid Access Computing Environment and Forge.mil development site to support its recently launched "Apps for the Army" development contest.

Army recruiters use Salesforce.com's CRM service to manage the contact information of potential recruits, but Krieger says the Army is reluctant to store the personal information of its employees in a commercial service. "I don't think we're ready for a public cloud," Krieger said. "The problem with the public cloud is the security of the data."

Pockets of the Army -- intelligence and battle command, for example -- already have cloud environments that are available to authorized users. The bigger opportunity lies with services offered more broadly on what Krieger called "Army scale."

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