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CHIPS Articles: Navy Data Center Consolidation

Navy Data Center Consolidation
Empowering innovation and capturing lessons learned
By CHIPS Magazine - May 3, 2012
With a mandate from the Under Secretary of the Navy to save 25 percent from the department's business information technology budget, the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer is investigating best of breed ideas regarding data center consolidation. DCC is only one part of the department's comprehensive effort to transform business IT.

The call for transformation is urgent, DON CIO Terry Halvorsen said, to maximize funding for mission critical systems and ensure national security.

Previously, many IT decisions were made by commands, often at the expense of an enterprise view, which led to a proliferation of systems, applications and data centers that met individual needs but added network complexity and cost. Through several policy changes, the department is now identifying areas for improvement and savings and is implementing changes to meet the $2 billion reduction in its IT budget.

At the Sea Air Space Exposition April 18, Halvorsen led a group of panelists in a spirited discussion about the central ingredients to the DCC effort: people, processes, technology and innovation. Panelists included Director of Assessments and Compliance for OPNAV (N2/N6) and Navy CIO Janice Haith; Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder; Google's Chief Technology Officer (Federal) Michele Weslander Quaid; IBM's Federal Chief Technology Officer Johnny Barnes; and Research Vice President for Gartner, Inc. David J. Cappuccio.

The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6), DON CIO and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN RDA) are the decisional authorities regarding the data centers that will be closed.

The biggest obstacle in the Navy's effort to consolidate data centers is a resistance to change, according to Haith.

"People say, 'I've got to have the server or I can't do my job — or the policy change will only work ashore.'" Haith said. "Another problem is that we keep finding more data centers that were not reported."

In addition to the cost savings associated with consolidation, such as reducing manpower, facilities and utilities, the DON is working to improve security, data storage, disaster recovery procedures, services to users and to position itself to capitalize on future technologies such as cloud computing. Klunder challenged industry to innovate in the areas of data storage in multiple classifications, multicore processors, analytical tools for better decision making, and bandwidth throughput because deployed personnel must reach back to shore for data. "To protect the men and women in uniform, the information has to be reliable and secure for warfighters to make critical decisions while engaged in the fight," Klunder said.

In regard to the Navy's ability to innovate, Weslander Quaid said that many government organizations are trapped in old technology provided by the same vendors because they define requirements and policies that are prescriptive rather than describing desired outcomes so they end up with the same solution they already have.

To keep pace with the latest technology, it is important for organizations to have a CTO that can advocate change within the organization, according to Weslander Quaid. Embrace outsourcing enterprise email and cloud computing, and focus on the things that you need to do – your core competencies. [To save money and increase mobility] "secure data and not the device," she said. IBM began its data center consolidation journey 20 years ago with 150 centers and a plan to get down to six but it is still working on the reduction because data center consolidation is a continuous process, Barnes said. "Understanding your baseline is fundamental to making the right decisions. You have to know the relationships between systems. Things broke because we didn't understand relationships."

Educating the workforce helps break down resistance to change, according to Barnes, because in any organizational change, including data center consolidation, employees are worried about losing their jobs.

Halvorsen asked the panelists to name the most important element in data center consolidation: people, processes or technology.

"While understanding your process is No. 1, people are important, if you can't articulate where you are going, your people can’t go with you," Barnes said.

Thinkers who are not boxed into a particular idea can be valuable, but stay away from the bleeding-edge, which tends to be risky, Barnes said. It is also important for an organization to identify a model for calculating its return on investment so that savings captured from consolidation are not used for something else.

Remarking on the importance of technology, Barnes said, "Initially, we were constrained by our network, response time is a critical enabler, but once we had the network right, things moved very quickly."

For the Navy, Haith said that network performance and data accessibility will improve with the launch of the Next Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN, slated to be implemented in the next couple of years.

Cappuccio offered that organizations should follow the best of breed, opining that although Google, Facebook and Amazon are successes in cloud computing, their models are radically different from other organizations.

The Defense Department is unique and the consequences for failure are different – just the scale of users alone makes DoD very different from other organizations, according to Cappuccio. The problems with IT infrastructure, data storage and retrieval and security can be solved by innovation, but organizations must remove all assumptions before innovation can be truly effective. For example, not all data needs to be protected with the same rigor, Cappuccio said. Organizations can decrease security and storage costs by 25 percent by accepting more risk for less sensitive systems and data, he said.

In July 2011, ASN RDA appointed the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command as the technical authority and execution lead for the Navy’s DCC effort working closely with the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS), OPNAV N2/N6 and the DON CIO.

SPAWAR's CTO, Robert Wolborsky, leads the DCC task force teams that assess designated data centers. Wolborsky said in January that 30 assessments had been completed, including cost models. Wolborsky and his team are aggressively pursuing a high return on investment and are anticipating significant cost savings from FY 2013 to FY 2017.

The initial focus of the assessments is to understand what IT assets the Navy has, Wolborsky explained. Sites can have anywhere from five to 1,000 servers.

"This year, our target is to set up a metric for closing data centers. We're planning to close 23 sites this fiscal year," Wolborsky said.

Weslander Quaid offered a suggestion for how to utilize the talents of the personnel who staffed the data centers that the Navy will close. "Get the people off watching the lights on the server and see what they can [innovate]."

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