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FDA, DHS move on IT infrastructure modernization

Two large federal agencies are mapping out plans to update their IT infrastructure to better meet the need of their users.

The Food and Drug Administration is considering new approaches for delivering IT infrastructure services to support its 25,000 users who are running increasing more highly customized, scientific and high-performance computing workloads that are currently housed in the agency’s four data centers and the Amazon Web Services GovCloud.

According to a July 9 request for information, FDA’s Office of Information Management and Technology is also looking at cloud solutions – both private clouds and public clouds authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program -- to reduce IT infrastructure costs, enhance capacity and improve collaboration across its research centers.

“To the extent possible, FDA would like to eliminate all FDA owned or leased data centers within four (4) years,” the RFI said, acknowledging that a hybrid approach may be more feasible, especially when it comes to meeting the FDA’s federated enterprise requirements and supporting early adopters.

In addition to modernizing its infrastructure, the FDA said it wants to streamline processes, establish standards, reduce the work and expense required to maintain contracts and still have enough flexibility to support innovation. It is specifically looking for transparency in monitoring and cost data, engineering support for troubleshooting, enhanced support for DevOps, expanded use of automation and continuous integration, diagnostics, testing, mitigation and security services.

Responses are due Aug. 3.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is inching closer to making good on a long-promised data center consolidation plan.

On July 10, the agency issued a draft solicitation for data center and cloud optimization support services for its enterprise data center as well as implementation and hosting environments at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The data center is owned by NASA and run by its contractor, but DHS uses about 35,000 square feet in the facility.

When awarded, the contract could be worth $1 billion to the successful bidder, Washington Technology reported in May.

DHS had planned to consolidate data center operations at the Mississippi facility, known as DC 1, and shutter operations at a Virginia location (called DC 2) to save money and to make allowances for components that are pushing operations into commercial cloud. The plan as of last August was to consolidate operations in Mississippi by June 2020, but even then, complications were emerging that made the closure of DC 2 on that timetable unlikely.

The draft solicitation looks to move from a location-based approach for support services to a service-based approach that will offer a hybrid IT hosting environment to serve as a foundation to manage and integrate multi-cloud and co-located applications.

A portion of this article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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