Navy Launches Aggressive Virtualization Plan

Hosted virtual desktop initiative is part of Navy's broader move to virtualize all its current server-based systems and applications by the end of 2017.

August 8, 2013

3 Min Read

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The Navy is trying to accelerate efforts to virtualize more its IT operations with the launch of a new pilot program to test hosted virtual desktops. The pilot program is intended to gauge what kind of cost savings the Navy might expect by using software to run remote versions of desktop computers, and rely on thin- or zero-client devices. The initiative is expected to reduce equipment and overhead costs, and improve security, but how much it would save the Navy is not clear.

The Hosted Virtual Desktop (HVD) pilot will support up to 7, 500 users on the Navy and Marine Corps Intranet. According to Navy officials, HVD will allow users to access software tools and applications from a data center via a terminal or other device. Because the software isn't tied to a specific piece of equipment, it will allow a variety of devices to access the desktop, from inside and outside the unclassified NMCI.

By vitrualizing desktop services, the Navy hopes to save money and increase its IT efficiency by centralizing security patching and updating, cutting the need for onsite tech support, and increasing security.

"We're doing it for cost and security," said Navy CIO Terry Halverson at an industry forum Aug. 7. "If I can get to a higher volume of HVD users, the pure cost of the device is much less," he said, suggesting that $400 per device was a reasonable estimate.

[ How is government offloading other tasks to cut costs? Read Government IT Using Cloud To Manage Internet Gateways. ]

Halverson noted the increased security provided by centralizing the data services. "There's no residue data left on the device," once it's turned off, he said. And the ability to centrally manage security administration instead on the devices themselves will allow users to use their personal computers to telework and to access controlled unclassified information, he added.

The HVD pilot falls in with a larger Navy virtualization effort. On July 29, Halverson issued a memorandum that requires the service to virtualize all its current server-based systems and applications by the end of the 2017 fiscal year. The memo also applies to the Marine Corps and calls for both services to submit virtualization plans within 120 days. The plans will detail how they will upgrade all of their servers and server-based systems and applications. The announcement will likely affect the host of IT contractors and subcontractors supporting Navy and Marine Corps systems.

Virtualization is nothing new to the civilian government or the DOD. Major initiatives were launched under the Obama Administration to increase the cost savings of federal IT systems through efficiencies such as consolidating data centers. A key to all of these efforts is virtualization because it allows organizations to do more with less equipment. Virtualization is also at the heart of modern commercial cloud technology, something the government is embracing as well.

Although the memo highlights virtualization, it also leaves room for other approaches for greater efficiency and cost savings. According to the Navy, the timeline allows for virtualization to take place in steps or phases. This allows the service to also run other efficiency efforts in parallel, such as system/application rationalization, standardization and data center consolidation.

Navy and Marine Corps organizations who believe that their systems can't be virtualized must submit a waiver to their respective service CIOs for approval by Sept. 30, 2014. These waivers are not permanent; they will be good for one year and reconsidered during every following annual review.

This article included additional reporting from Wyatt Kash.

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