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Navy struggles to streamline IT

Apr. 10, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By | AMBER CORRIN   |   Comments
SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic Data Center unveile
Senior Navy officials tour a data center at SPAWARSYSCEN Atlantic in Charleston, S.C. (Joe Bullinger / U.S. Navy)
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The Navy has been on a multi-year mission to pare down its duplicative networks, data centers and business systems, achieving savings along the way, but the process remains difficult and rife with challenges, according to officials.

Across the Defense Department, IT consolidation serves as a prime way to achieve cost efficiencies in the search for savings. Indeed, data center consolidation a high priority across the government, not just for DoD. But just because it’s widespread doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“With regard to data centers, this is not exquisite technology; this is stuff industry has been doing all along,” John Zangardi, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, information operations and space, said April 8 at the Sea Air Space conference at National Harbor, Md. “The bottom line is, we are encouraging everyone to leverage what industry is doing. The goal is 75 percent commercial…however, the biggest challenge is governance. It’s the willpower to make people do what you want them to do. They may not see the advantage of it…getting them to make that change requires a little effort.”

The Navy currently has about 125 legacy data centers that officials are looking to eventually reduce to roughly 20 core data centers, said Janice Haith, Navy deputy CIO. Even bigger hurdles lie within the multitude of IT applications, such as business systems and other IT capabilities, that overlap but are difficult to cut back because they are dispersed ashore and afloat around the world – and because users are resistant to certain changes.

“We are struggling with how to eliminate, reduce and reengineer these applications so we can go to a modernized, cloud-like environment,” Haith said. “We have probably have reached the pinnacle now of the ability to do that without major industry partnership, because people do not want to give up their applications. There is the continued fear that my application has to be right next to me or I can’t move forward, versus the [idea] that nothing needs to be next to me to function. We use the cloud for day-to-day personal life; we need to be able to use it for the business environment.”

Some applications were never updated beyond Windows’ XP operating system, she added. This week, Windows ceased support for XP, leaving the Navy scrambling to execute extended support agreements, something that will be especially difficult for afloat fleets, she said.

As Navy officials look to reduce costs through modernization – and balance the front-end investment that requires – the hope is that new ways of operating will help the service move forward. But even then, the Navy faces challenges in its networks, data centers and IT systems.

“We have to come up with an operating construct and a business model, and we’re working very hard to do that,” said Victor Gavin, Navy program executive officer – enterprise information systems. “The next big rock we’ll have to get over once we get there is going to be how do we operate them?”

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