Army does about-face on data center consolidation

The Army is reconsidering a plan to consolidate its essential information technology applications from hundreds of sites to a handful of regional area processing centers (APCs), despite having partially completed the task. The Army already has established two of APCs and is transitioning application bases to them.

As initially conceived, the Army planned to establish six APCs in North America and several more overseas using leased space in Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs) run by the Defense Information Systems Agency. After indications that the direction the Army had taken would be too expensive, the Army put the original strategy on hold and now is considering alternative approaches, including a request for outside input on how to best centralize its IT operations.

This month, the Office of the Army Chief Information Officer issued a request for information on the APC effort, and will consider those suggestions when drafting a revised APC strategy. The Army intends to put all possible solutions on the table and is open to any ideas on how to meet the goals of its migration to APCs, said Gary Winkler, the Army's program executive officer for enterprise information systems.

The Army issued its RFI for the APCs Feb. 15, and gave interested parties a March 5 deadline to submit responses. Army CIO Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson is scheduled to meet with the Army's chief of staff March 15 with his recommendation for implementing the APCs. The Army then will finalize its revised strategy for implementing APCs and will issue a formal APC business plan, Winkler said during the Federal Networks 2008 conference last week.

In its reconsideration of the APC strategy, the Army intends to apply as many lessons as possible from other parties' experiences in with data center consolidation to achieve the greatest cost-benefit ' a stark contrast to the Army's initial approach on the APC concept in which the Network Enterprise Technology Command, 9th Signal Command (NetCom) had sole responsibility for developing an APC strategy.

After finishing the initial phases of APC migration according to its original blueprint, 'NetCom has put a bill on the table for the APCs that the Army, honestly, is going to have a hard time accepting,' necessitating the Army's search for different approaches, Winkler said this week. The new direction is needed even though it may run counter to some of the integration efforts the Army already has completed, he said.

As it prepares its long-term budget forecast for fiscal years 2010 to 2015, the Army looked at rough estimates of the cost of implementing APCs using NetCom's approach and determined that it probably can't afford to follow that model. Less-costly alternatives may include funding the APCs through a different mechanism than the current approach of paying for the migration with infrastructure modernization funds, Winkler said.

Technically and operationally, the Army will also examine different facilities in which to host the APCs, and could adopt a hybrid solution in which it would host some applications in DISA's enterprise computing centers and other applications elsewhere.

'We are not predisposed toward any particular type of contract and aren't ruling out using a new contract,' Winkler said. 'We're looking to the industry for their ideas on how we can achieve the APC idea in the most cost effective manner.'

The Army also is tentatively planning an industry day with outside parties to discuss their ideas for APCs, although it hasn't decided whether to limit participation only to respondents to the RFI, he said.

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