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DHS Plots Its Cloud Computing Strategy

A Department Of Homeland Security private cloud is expected to serve up SharePoint and enterprise e-mail before the end of fiscal 2010.
The Department of Homeland Security will use its data center consolidation effort as a launchpad into shared services and a private cloud strategy, Keith Trippie, executive director of DHS' enterprise system development office, said Thursday.

Speaking at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association breakfast panel in Bethesda, Md., Trippie said that the as-yet unnamed DHS cloud will be serving up SharePoint and enterprise e-mail before the end of fiscal 2010, with a development testing environment and a more general common operating environment to follow.

DHS got a significant IT appropriations boost for fiscal 2010, including $150 million that covers data center development and migration efforts. The agency is in the midst of an effort to consolidate its two dozen data centers into two heavily virtualized locations in Virginia and Mississippi by 2013.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has cited cloud computing as a key to driving down IT costs within the federal government.

"When you have consolidated data centers as parts of your enterprise strategy, the next thing is looking at the enterprise services you want to build in there," Trippie said. "We're looking to try to get capabilities on the ground sooner than in the past, so elasticity and on-demand serving are going to be principles as we move forward."

Clearly, the DHS still has plenty of questions to answer as it moves forward with this strategy. Trippie noted that the DHS was working through security concerns, decisions about how to make sure that any enterprise services focus first and foremost on customers, and how acquisition fits into the puzzle.

Security is a challenge at top of mind for Trippie. "We want to look at it and say, how do you balance the risk?" he said. "One of the big things about this is, I think it can be a game changer if done right, but standards coming down from NIST [are a challenge] that I'm hoping over the course of the coming year we're going to be able to start addressing."

Engaging the assorted DHS sub-agencies will be another challenge. "The Websprawl of 5 years ago may be cloudsprawl of 5 years from now if we do not make it easy for people to do business with us," Trippie said, referring to a massive build-up of disparate federal Websites that has only recently begun to ease. "You've got to guide them through the lifecycle and if you're able to do that, folks will be coming to your doorstep."