Enterprise information technology and its supporting components can eat up a significant chunk of an organization's budget, with much of it allocated to the infrastructure and personnel needed to sustain it. In this respect, the Department of Defense (DoD) is no different than many large corporations because IT is a significant investment across the entire Department of Navy (DON).
In recent years, as budgets rose, the Navy and other government organizations experienced a substantial growth in IT networks, systems and applications. To attack these rising costs, the President signed a directive that started the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) in February 2010, with the intent of addressing harsh fiscal realities while positioning government IT for the future.
Specifically, the FDCCI requires agencies to reduce their data center footprint by minimizing overhead costs and increasing the security and stability of their data centers which when combined improve the overall efficiency of the federal IT infrastructure. Under the provisions of FDCCI, the DoD is required to close more than 1,000 data centers by the end of 2015 to help meet the goals.
To align with the federal mandates, the DON Chief Information Officer (CIO), the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6) and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition drafted policy initiatives to increase business IT efficiency without sacrificing operational effectiveness for the Navy.
To meet a challenge of this magnitude, the Navy recognized the need for a technical authority and world-class expert capable of executing the Navywide data center consolidation effort. With those requirements in mind, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) was selected to lead the Navy's effort as the technical authority and execution agent.
As the Navy's information dominance systems command, SPAWAR is leveraging its breadth and depth of technical expertise and incorporating best practices and lessons learned from previous data center consolidations. SPAWAR established a Data Center Consolidation (DCC) Task Force, which consists of team members from across the Navy, including SPAWAR headquarters, SPAWAR Systems Centers Pacific and Atlantic, and the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems.
The purpose of this effort is to provide more robust and secure Navy data center operations, while realizing savings by aggressively pursuing data center consolidations, application virtualization and server reductions.
The DCC Task Force works in lock-step with resource sponsors, the DON CIO and SPAWAR's chief engineer — the Navy's IT technical authority — to ensure alignment with DoD and Navy IT operational requirements.
Robert Wolborsky, a member of the Senior Executive Service and SPAWAR's chief technology officer, was selected as director of the DCC Task Force. Wolborsky and his team are charged with aggressively pursuing a high return on investment (ROI) for the Navy with respect to data center consolidation, and to realize significant cost savings across the five year defense plan.
"The Navy's effort will be a significant contribution to the federal data center consolidation mandates," Wolborsky said. "In addition to maximizing the Navy's return on investment, one of our principal objectives is to consolidate at least 58 Navy data centers into the Navy Enterprise Data Center over the next five years."
Prior to the Pentagon's current fiscal drawdown, the Navy realized that decreasing budgets and diminishing resources could dramatically affect current missions. A vital need to more efficiently refocus and transform the Navy's business model, without sacrificing operational readiness, was evident.
Information technology, as a critical asset, is a significant investment across the Navy. The spiraling cost of IT is a contributing factor associated with how efficiently the Navy conducts business. The Navy has always prioritized other investment portfolios, such as procurements for ships, submarines and aircraft, but the Navy needed to re-evaluate how day-today business operations are conducted.
In particular, the Navy needed to assess the way IT infrastructure was managed and how the number of data centers and hosting facilities aligned with the overarching vision of more efficient and effective Navy business IT investment.
Navy Enterprise Data Centers
As the DCC Task Force carries out the mission to consolidate data centers, it is necessary to identify strategically located sites that can accommodate the transitioning applications from a power, networking and computing perspective.
These sites provide a "landing" for applications and systems that are being consolidated from legacy data centers. Three initial locations have been identified for the Navy's Enterprise Data Center (NEDC): San Diego, Charleston and New Orleans.
As the Navy moves forward with data center consolidation, an ongoing assessment of other hosting options will be considered, including commercial enterprises, joint programs under the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and expansion of the NEDC to additional locations.
By migrating applications from smaller legacy data centers to an enterprise data center under a common centralized management model, the Navy will increase operational performance while saving resources. The NEDC will position the Navy for future IT transformation, while enhancing the ability to maximize the use of all Navy data to provide richer information to the warfighter. In the meantime, as migration of applications continues to progress from smaller legacy data centers to the NEDC under a common centralized operational model, operational performance will increase and environmental resources will be conserved.
In addition to cost savings and better performance, the NEDC will provide a common set of services and common infrastructure, thus decreasing facility maintenance costs while increasing economies of scale.
A common rate card for hosted service enables all customers to have a clear and consistent picture of the services offered and their associated costs. Customers will sign service-level agreements with a NEDC based on these standard rates, enabling Navy commands better forecasting and budgeting information.
The vision for the NEDC is that it will posture the Navy for future IT transformations, such as server virtualization and migration to cloud computing. It is also anticipated that the Navy's ability to maximize the utilization of data will provide richer information capability to the warfighter.
Wolborsky explained that the entire Navy is affected by the federal mandate to reduce budgets and everyone in the Navy is expected to benefit from a successful execution of this transition.
Under Wolborsky's leadership, the team has identified standard configurations and developed network tools that can track bandwidth usage to capture metrics from the many legacy networks. The tools will help the team identify underutilized networks so that the Navy can eliminate these expensive systems.
Seven data center consolidations are in progress as of March 2012. The team has finalized test plans for systems to ensure all capability is fully functional within the NEDC pre-production environment framework prior to formal transfer from the legacy data center.
Assessment and Execution
Based on an initial analysis of data centers that pose the least technical risk for consolidation, OPNAV N2/N6 developed a list of sites to close. The task force conducted detailed on-site assessments of 39 data centers to gain a better understanding of their capabilities and challenges.
During those assessments, the team collected technical requirements and cost data in preparation for system transitions. After conducting detailed engineering analyses, the team prepares each site for system build out, systems migration and testing prior to final transition to NEDC.
Though the process may be technically challenging and represent a cultural shift, the return on investment for the Navy makes the process worthwhile.
According to Wolborsky, industry is ahead of the Navy in data center consolidation best practices. Many large corporations have gone through similar consolidations. "We want to learn as much as we possibly can from industry — the most effective things done and their lessons learned to increase capability, security and reduce overall cost," Wolborsksy said. "We expect a lot of what we do in the future will be based on what industry tells us. They have already consolidated many of their data centers and have realized tremendous savings. The Navy can draw from their lessons learned and best practices."
Cost and Application Rationalization Drive the Effort
The Navy has a significant number of legacy networks and circuits deployed for fleet service. The technical rigor being incorporated into the vetting process is the critical component determining which data centers to close and what additional savings and resources could be recouped. It is a process that will change the Navy’s application landscape across the board and support the business transformation initiatives expected to come out of the data center consolidation effort. Fewer applications and wider functionality, with less overlap with existing applications, will increase the amount of money the Navy can save and drive the changes in business IT.
Wolborksy's cost model will help the Navy better understand how much it is spending and how much it will save. "We have a good idea of how much we will spend for the transition, but there is another factor associated with it that we call additional opportunities," Wolborsky said. "As we make progress, we are finding more assets and more ways for the Navy to save money, such as working with all the other organizations that own applications with the Navy and looking at how we can change business processes and adapt applications, so that we have fewer specialized applications and more generic and multipurpose functionality across the DON." Wolborsky simplifies all of those words into a single descriptive term: "application rationalization."
To make any kind of fiscal determination, however, the Navy must understand how much it currently spends on the backend for IT infrastructure. Though Wolborsky says it is a significant challenge to accurately capture those figures, it is still part of the assessment process. Once the analysis is complete, the team can better ascertain the actual cost savings. As Wolborsky and the task force move forward, they will invariably discover additional savings and assets which could have the potential to change the business process.
The issues are not just technical ones, according to Wolborsky. "Technically, this initiative is fairly straightforward," he said. "Much more profound are the changes associated with culture, policy and advocacy. We have tremendous support from Navy leadership to get this done. However, this is a major change in the way data centers are doing business and it will require a huge cultural shift as well."
SPAWAR has been in the business of data consolidations for years. While there are challenges inherent to each application and each system, it is difficult to find one that is completely insurmountable. Wolborsky’s SPAWAR team is up to the challenge.
"One of the most important facets of this effort is SPAWAR's ability to step up and assume IT tech authority for the Navy. We are the Navy's information dominance systems command after all," Wolborsky said. "As such we have the capability —a world class IT workforce — to carry this out to completion."
This is an extremely challenging and pivotal time for the SPAWAR enterprise. It is the first of a major series of business transformations the Navy is undertaking. With strong leadership and IT expertise, the DCC Task Force is exercising rigorous planning and execution to realize the ROI needed to allow the Navy to focus precious dollars on critical needs to support warfighter readiness.
"I'll echo what the Navy's Deputy Under Secretary Eric Fanning has said, 'Data center consolidation is essential if the Navy is to successfully meet its business transformational goals in the future,'" Wolborsky said. "This is one of the first, concrete, tangible efficiency initiatives, and sets a precedent for everything that needs to be done to make the Navy more efficient. It's very exciting that here in San Diego we are leading a very important effort for the entire Navy. It's extremely rewarding to watch us grow the IT workforce into a formidable force to be reckoned with."
From the DON CIO: To date, the U.S. Navy has closed 13 data centers and plans to close approximately 23 more during the next fiscal year. Additionally, during the past five years, SPAWAR has transitioned a number of applications out of existing data centers and into SPAWAR hosting facilities. This has resulted in significant savings for affected commands. Commander of the Navy Reserve Force, reports more than $31 million of life cycle savings and $6 million that would have been spent on contractor services and license fees.