Data center consolidation, restructuring said key to future Army networks

New network priorities stress a shared joint service environment.

Data center consolidation is one of the Army top IT priorities and the service needs to work closely with industry to achieve that goal, Army CIO Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence said at the AFCEA Army IT Day conference in McLean, Va., on Dec. 14.

Meanwhile, the service faces a shrinking budget, increasing cyber threats and growing use requirements. “We’re going to be a smaller army quicker than we thought. But we’re going to be a more enabled army,” she said.

The key to making the force more flexible is LandWarNet, the Army’s command and control network. The service must take advantage of the small window it has to recapitalize its networks into a single environment from the continental United States to the tactical edge and needs to take chances to do so,  she said, adding, “We have to not think oldthink.” 

The Office of Management and Budget has identified 800 government data centers that needed cutting, and 200 are the Army's, Lawrence said. Although consolidating redundant systems and data centers is vital, she said other efforts are also progressing.

The Army has migrated 300,000 users to the Defense Department’s Enterprise Email program, and the key to that effort is to give military personnel a single identity that will allow them to access their data from any government computer. Likewise, data center consolidation is about increased data access. “It’s all about the data. It’s not about physically shutting down data centers,” Lawrence said.

The Army is also working on a joint information enterprise that will connect all DOD commands. This consolidation has already taken place in Europe with the Army European Command and Africa Commands closing their networks and moving to the enterprise. The Joint Staff also will soon transition to the enterprise in January and February of 2012, she said.

This cross-DOD consolidation makes sense, Lawrence said. She said if another service is using a network environment, the Army won’t build it. For example, the Army is sharing some sites developed by the Air Force and the ultimate goal is a single joint architecture across DOD where users won’t connect to individual service computers, but to governmentwide systems, she said.

However, some gaps remain in the Army’s processes, such as making Army networks truly plug-and-play. What's needed is a uniform set of standards for industry to follow, Lawrence said. She also said many of the Army’s program offices purchase technology independently without consulting other service offices. Program offices, like contractors, must adhere to a single set of standards and products, she said.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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