Navy issues first of several data center consolidation-focused contracts

As part of its effort to achieve improved data center consolidation, the United States Navy recently issued the first of several contracts, Federal News Radio reported.

The contract, awarded to IBM, is part of Tier 1 of the Navy's Data Center and Application Optimization (DCAO) program, the news source noted. Among other objectives, this stage of the process aims to reduce the number of applications used by the Navy, as well as achieve significant business process improvement among its data centers.

A renewed effort
The Navy developed its DCAO program last year. As the news source reported, Navy officials determined that the organization's data center consolidation efforts were progressing slowly and that a new approach was necessary.

"We were kind of plodding along and not really on a pace to achieve our objectives, so we changed to a 'go big' strategy and increased the scope of the effort," Vice Adm. Ted Branch, deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance, said at the recent Navy IT Day in Virginia, Federal News Radio reported. "We're going to end up moving 7,000 or so systems and applications into data centers. We're going to need a lot of commercial hosting to do that and a lot of commercial services to make that work."

To this end, Branch noted that more contracts are on the way. According to the news source, these contracts will focus on virtualizing Navy servers, data migration and other aspects related to data center consolidation.

A major project
Currently, the Navy maintains 226 data centers in the continental U.S., according to Federal News Radio. Ultimately, the organization hopes to reduce this number to 20. Of these, some will be commercial data centers while others will be run by the Defense Information Systems Agency and other military services, including the Navy itself.

Obviously, this is a major endeavor. Complicating matters is determining what data must remain on-site and what can be outsourced to third-party data centers, as John Pope, director of the DCAO program, explained. He emphasized that his goal is to "maximize what [he] can put into a commercial hosting environments," but there are strict limitations concerning some types of information.

In general, the DCAO program is focused on unclassified and secret level data, Janice Haith, deputy chief information officer for the Navy, told the news source. As of now, intelligence information has largely been overlooked in regard to data center consolidation. However, this may soon change.

"We have had a heavy, heavy focus this year on intelligence and what we're going to do with IT in that area," Haith said, the news source reported. "We've got a lot of work to do there. It's going to go through the same scrutiny we're doing right now for the non-intel side."

DOE initiatives
The Navy's efforts are in line with a broader initiative among U.S. agencies to achieve greater data center efficiency in order to reduce energy expenditures. Last month, the Department of Energy issued a Data Energy Challenge which aims to improve overall data center efficiency in the U.S. government by 20 percent by 2020. Private sector firms were also encouraged to voluntarily join this effort.

"The DOE has reached out to a few federal and private data center operators and there's half a dozen to a dozen already signed up," said William Tschudi, program director at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is organizing this challenge in conjunction with the Government Information Technology Executive Council, Data Center Knowledge reported.

As time goes on, the need for both public and private sector organizations to improve data center efficiency will grow more pronounced, increasing the need for consolidation efforts.