cloud migration (Phonlamai Photo/

DHS finds cloud move not a one-hop swap

As with any major move, the Department of Homeland Security is finding its cloud migration has a few more wrinkles than expected.   

The plan was to consolidate and modernize two of DHS' primary data centers -- Data Center 1 in Mississippi and Data Center 2 in Virginia -- as contracts expired, but some older software systems at DC2 may not be cloud-ready when the deal with HP expires in June 2020.  According to Carlene Ileto, executive director of DHS' Infrastructure Service Division, that leaves DHS with the challenge of finding a new home for every DC 2 system and application before the data center is closed.

Of the 153 systems, DHS first had to determine which ones were ready to be moved to the cloud, Ileto said following a Sept. 17 appearance at an ACT-IAC event on DHS' cloud forecast. "And what we found was many of our systems were not really IT modernized to do that," she said.

Some systems are set to migrate to DC 1, while others may be moved to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia. Another possibility: some secondary systems may continue running out of DC 2 past the 2020 deadline as backups for disaster-recovery purposes or until they're ready for larger migration activities.

"We're trying to get all of our systems and components out of Data Center 2, but if we don't meet that timeline of June 2020, they're going to have to stay … or go to another data center, and that's where we're struggling, trying to figure out where they need to go," said Illeto.

Jaclyn Rubino, acting executive director of the Strategic Program Division at DHS, said that for larger project components, like the re-bid for DC 1, cloud solution providers and other capabilities will likely be broken off into distinct procurements. The department also doesn't want to get locked into a single provider or solution.

"Over time we're not seeing ourselves in a position where we're wed to one particular cloud and the price continues to rise," she said, "so [we're] looking at the flexibilities, looking at potentially the portability of different applications we have from one cloud to another and where does it truly make sense?"

Underlying all this is an IT modernization play. Since some applications don't need to move to the cloud, the larger move is about reshaping the agency's IT assets -- cloud or not -- to fit the modern era. Officials have said they're "committed" to a hybrid IT model and will "always have a data center."

The push will touch systems and operations for more than a dozen component agencies within DHS, some of which have communicated modernization plans that aren't cloud-ready until 2021 or later. That has created a need for bridge contracts, temporary arrangements and unforeseen budget needs that must be worked out in the interim.

"All of this is a churn for the 14 components that we are working with right now and making sure they have funding to be able to move forward, whether they have to generate contracts, whether they have to make deals with … other data centers, whatever the case may be," said Illeto. "So they have choices, it's just that it may not be as feasible as they would like and … the transition may not be as easy. They may have to take more than one hop to get them to the cloud."

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.


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