DoD IT: No matter what the topic, it always comes back to the data

August 23, 2013
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We can talk about mobility, unified capabilities, identity, data fusion, applications, devices etc. for eternity.  But at the end of the day, it’s all about having the data in the right place at the right time. The rest is just details.

From this vantage, it’s interesting to watch the current disconnect between big DoD and the service components on how they protect this valuable data. It really doesn’t matter if you are using a Joint Information Environment (JIE) or a Legacy Network: the DATA has to actually and really be SOMEWHERE. Virtualization doesn’t negate that fact that data must sit at some location to be virtualized. And that WHERE is being hotly contested.

Last summer, Ms. Takai, DoD CIO signed out a memorandum promulgating the DoD Cloud Computing Strategy. In this well thought out document, she stated in clear detail that Core Data Centers would form the basis of the Enterprise Cloud infrastructure. Component applications and data are to transition to core data centers and the DoD Enterprise Cloud Environment. DISA was given the charter to make that happen. We have also written here about DSB reporting on cloud strategies for DoD. And we have also written extensively about new concepts of data center modernization

Last week at DISA Industry Day, Mr. Dave Bennett, the Director of Enterprise Information Services, reported his success in achieving DoD Cloud Computing Strategy goals and promised to complete consolidating core data onto the DECCS by 2018 (CONUS). These core data centers will be of standard design (with virtualization) and provide shared, on-demand computing capability across DoD. Failover, backup, archiving and COOP will be managed by DISA, using DISN connections with assured bandwidth. Data replication and synchronization are intended to “feed” the service components as they run their service specific requirements to the tactical level.

A lot of thought and energy is going into this process. Mr. Bennett’s team of experts is well suited to make this happen flawlessly. Future work will extend this to build Tier III compliant core data centers. This work will require help from industry. He expects to award contracts in the next year for services to render storage capacity, global content delivery, virtual desktop infrastructure and wireless local area network support.

This sounds great, but one wonders exactly where the money is coming from? To make these improvements and consolidations, something has to actually CLOSE DOWN. Service components have to agree to let their precious core-data (the family jewels) go into someone else’s vault. I have a hard time seeing that happen, no matter how much sense it makes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Terry Halvorsen, the Navy CIO, is working hard to solve this problem himself. He just released a memo directing server, system and application virtualization. Amazingly, no mention of DISA or DECCs here!  The “timeline permits a graduated approach to virtualization, which will set the stage and enable more effective execution of parallel efficiency efforts such as system/application rationalization, standardization, and data center consolidation”.  His Hosted Virtual Desktop pilot (recently announced here ) also skirts the issue of where these Data Centers will be, and defers us back to the original Navy plan to consolidate at Charleston, San Diego and New Orleans.

It remains to be seen how much teeth the DoD CIO Directive has. From a warfighters perspective, having access to the core data is an essential mission requirement. When putting bombs on target, the warfighter is not going to “reach back” into the enterprise to pass blame if the information they need is not available. The buck stops at the end of the spear. To force them to adopt this approach, DoD CIO will have to take a very aggressive stance. Until we see signs that dollars are moving from components to DISA to store their Core Data, I suspect it’s all just virtual!