Army Data Centers: Too Many to Count

11/3/2010
By Stew Magnuson

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Army is preparing to turn over operations of all its data centers to the Defense Information Sytems Agency. It plans to reduce them from the hundreds scattered throughout the world today to only 10, said the service's top network operations officer.
How many data centers does the Army have today? Nobody in the service really knows, said Maj. Gen. Mark Bowman, director of architecture, operations, networks and space at the Department of the Army.
The Army is attempting to count them, "but they are popping up all over the place," he said at the Milcom conference here. He defined a data center as any structure of more than 300 square feet "with a lot of servers."
"We know of about 279, but that number keeps going up," he added. He admitted that some entities in the service have not been forthcoming on requests for information on how many servers they have and what their purposes are.
The Army wants to get out of the business of running servers altogether and turn most of them over to DISA, which can run them more efficiently and at a lower cost, he said. The goal is to have consolidated all the servers into the 10 centers by 2015.
"We need to do this right or people will get scared," he said. They will  fear that their systems and capabilities will be taken away from them.
That might not be a bad thing. They may discover that they are paying for systems they don't need. He knows of some servers that only run one application or are only using 33 percent of their capacity.
Once the owners of the servers discover that they will have to pay to migrate their equipment to DISA-run centers, they may decide to do away with redundant or unnecesary information technology systems, he suggested.
Along with this effort, the Army will have to change the way it acquires information technology. The normal way of developing and purchasing IT systems which can take up to seven years, works for new tanks but not for information systems, he said.
In the next 10, years, he predicted that most of Army's IT will be
commercial-off-the-shelf systems rather than technology built specifically for the Army.

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