Excess data centers, enterprise apps getting unplugged

Excess data centers are being unplugged as the Army reduces redundancy and eliminates apps no longer used. Photo credit: David Vergun

By David Vergun
Army News Service

The Army has started migrating all its enterprise applications and systems to designated core data centers as directed by Under Secretary of the Army Brad R. Carson in a June memo. Migration must be complete by the end of fiscal year 2018.

Carson’s memo is the first step to establish policy and procedures that will drive the Army from hosting enterprise-wide services at local data centers to hosting these services in modern, standardized, centralized environments. This is part of a DOD-wide initiative and the Army’s consolidation of more than 1,100 data centers.

Enterprise applications are software programs that perform a specific task and require a user to cross an installation’s boundaries to access the app. For example, Microsoft Outlook for email and the Defense Travel System for government travel are enterprise applications used across the entire Department of Defense.

Data centers typically include large numbers of data servers that move and process data. They link Soldiers to support systems and also with one another and others on the outside via the Internet.

The Army is starting to see cost savings from terminating apps no longer in use and still on computers and servers, said Neal Shelley, chief of the Army Data Center Consolidation Division.

By killing apps, the Army is saving on licensing fees and upgrades. About 800 unused apps have been terminated to date, out of about 11,000 Army apps. Fewer apps also increase economy of scale, since service providers typically discount on volume. Also, fewer apps mean less potential for malware, according to Shelley.

Consolidating apps into centralized data centers in the cloud — hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency or commercially — is also increasing efficiencies.

Recently the migration of the Structured Self-Development System, a distance-learning app, from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to the enterprise level, has dramatically improved user access to the app by increasing the available bandwidth. Prior to migration, a narrow data pipeline connected Eustis with the rest of the Army and potential breakpoints existed. Enterprise management is now making the distance-learning app more secure, robust and reliable, Shelley said.

Additional efficiency is gained by eliminating redundant apps and replacing them with a standardized, or best-of-breed app, Shelley said.

Eliminating redundant apps is not as easy as eliminating unused apps. Invaluable data associated with the app may have been collected for 20-plus years and must be migrated to the new app, Shelley said. And, the app owners and users must be consulted so everyone is on the same page during the transition.

Once redundant, obsolete or inefficient apps are removed or replaced by enterprise apps, the cost savings can rapidly accrue. Just how much money can be saved is hard to calculate yet, said Shelley. The Office of the Chief Information Officer, G-6, is now tracking more than 11,000 Army apps. Identifying what’s out there is a big deal in and of itself.

At one time in the mid-1990s, Shelley noted HQDA had seven different e-mail systems running at the same time. In 2013, the Army finished migrating 1.4 million Army users to a single enterprise e-mail system with DISA supporting the effort. The Army saved $76 million in fiscal year 2013, and expects to save $380 million through 2017.

Not all local apps will migrate to the enterprise level, he said. For example, special purpose apps used to power parts of the Army’s industrial base, research labs or medical equipment will likely remain on local servers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *