SPAWAR: TheTip of the Spear for the Navy's Data Center Consolidation Effort
Specifically, the FDCCI requires agencies to reduce their data center footprint by minimizing overhead costs, increasing the security and stability of data centers, and improving the overall efficiency of the federal IT infrastructure. As part of the President’s “Campaign to Cut Waste,” the federal government plans to shut down more than 800 data centers by 2015, a move that is expected to save taxpayers more than $3 billion dollars.
In order to align with the federal mandates, the DON chief information officer (CIO), the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6) and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition drafted policy initiatives to increase efficiency without sacrificing operational effectiveness for the Navy. To meet a challenge of this magnitude, the Navy recognized the need for a technical authority and world-class expertise capable of executing a Navy-wide data center consolidation effort. With those requirements in mind, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) was selected to stand up the Data Center Consolidation (DCC) Task Force to lead the Navy’s effort as the technical authority and execution agent.
As the Navy’s Information Dominance systems command, SPAWAR is leveraging its breadth and depth of technical expertise and incorporating best practices and lessons learned from previous data center consolidations. The purpose of this effort is to provide more robust and secure Navy data center operations, while realizing savings through aggressively pursuing data center consolidations, application virtualization, and server reductions.
The DCC Task Force works in lock-step with resource sponsors, DON CIO and SPAWAR’s chief engineer—the Navy’s IT technical authority—to ensure alignment with DOD and Navy IT operational requirements.
Robert Wolborsky, a member of the Senior Executive Service and SPAWAR’s chief technology officer, was selected as director of the DCC Task Force. He leads a team of more than 200 cross-functional members from across SPAWAR, located in San Diego, Charleston, SC, and New Orleans.
“The Navy’s effort will be a significant contribution to the federal data center consolidation mandates,” said Wolborsky. “The Navy intends to reduce the number of data centers from 114 identified in fiscal year (FY) 2010 to fewer than 25 by FY17. The Task Force will consolidate 19 data centers in the first year, and we are slated to consolidate an additional 18 sites in FY13.”
Prior to the draw down in the Pentagon, the Navy realized that decreasing budgets and diminishing resources could dramatically impact current missions. A vital need to more efficiently refocus and transform the Navy’s business model, without sacrificing operational readiness, was evident. Information technology, as a critical asset, is a significant investment across the Navy. The spiraling cost of IT is a contributing factor associated with how efficiently the Navy conducts business. Prioritizing other investments, such as the procurement of ships, submarines, and aircraft, the Navy needed to re-evaluate how day-to-day business was being conducted. In particular, the Navy assessed the way IT infrastructure was managed and how the number of data centers and hosting facilities aligned with the overarching vision of Navy IT.
NAVY ENTERPRISE DATA CENTERS
As the DCC Task Force carries out the mission to consolidate data centers, it is necessary to identify strategically located sites that can accommodate the transitioning applications from a power, networking, and computing perspective. These sites provide a “landing” for applications and systems that are being consolidated from legacy data centers. Three initial locations have been identified for the Navy’s Enterprise Data Center (NEDC): San Diego, Charleston, and New Orleans. As the Navy moves forward with data center consolidation, an ongoing assessment of other hosting options will be considered, including commercial enterprises, joint programs under the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), and expansion of the NEDC to additional locations.
By migrating applications from smaller legacy data centers to an enterprise data center under a centralized management model, the Navy will increase operational performance while saving resources. The NEDC will position the Navy for future IT transformation, such as server virtualization and migration to the cloud, while enhancing the ability to maximize the use of all Navy data to provide richer information to the war fighter.
In addition to cost savings and better performance, the NEDC will provide a compatible set of services and infrastructure, thus decreasing facility maintenance costs while increasing economies of scale. A common rate card hosting service enables all customers to have a clear and consistent picture of what services are offered at what price. Customers will sign service-level agreements with NEDC based on these standard rates, enabling better forecasting and budgeting.
Wolborsky explained that the entire Navy is affected by the federal mandate to reduce budgets, and everyone in the Navy is expected to benefit from a successful execution of this transition.
Under Wolborsky’s leadership, the team has identified standard configurations and developed network tools that can track bandwidth usage to capture metrics from the many legacy networks. The tools will help the team identify underutilized networks so that the Navy can stop carrying the costs of these expensive systems.
ASSESSMENT AND EXECUTION
Based on an initial analysis of data centers that pose the greatest opportunity for return on investment balanced with the least technical risk, the DCC Task Force made recommendations on which sites to close and OPNAV N2/N6 made the final decision. The task force conducts detailed on-site assessments of selected data centers to gain a better understanding of their capability and challenges. During those assessments, the team collected technical requirements and cost data in preparation for system transitions.
After conducting detailed engineering analyses, the team prepares each site for system build out, migration, and testing prior to final transition to NEDC. Though the process may be technically challenging and represent a cultural shift, the return on investment for the Navy makes the process worthwhile.
According to Wolborsky, industry is ahead of the Navy in data center consolidation best practices. Many large corporations have gone through similar consolidations.
“We want to learn as much as we possibly can from industry—the most effective things done and their lessons learned to increase capability, security, and reduce overall cost,” said Wolborsksy. “We expect a lot of what we do in the future will be based on what industry tells us. They have already consolidated many of their data centers and have realized tremendous savings. The Navy can draw from their lessons learned and best practices.”
COST AND APPLICATION RATIONALIZATION
There are more than 26,000 applications in the Navy, many with similar functions and funded by various sources. Application rationalization—reducing the number of duplicative applications to meet business requirements—represents one of the biggest opportunities for IT cost savings and positions the Navy for business transformation initiatives. Beginning in FY13, the DCC TF will provide technical recommendations on which applications may be reduced to the Navy IT Enterprise Governance Board. Fewer applications and wider functionality, with less overlap with existing applications, will increase the amount of money the Navy can save and drive the change.
DETERMINING THE SAVINGS
“We have a good idea of how much we will spend for the transition, but there is another factor associated with it that we call additional opportunities,” said Wolborsky. “As we make progress, we are finding more assets and more ways for the Navy to save money, such as working with all the other organizations that own applications with the Navy and looking at how we can change business processes and adapt applications, so that we have fewer specialized applications and more generic and multipurpose functionality across the DON.”
In order to make any kind of fiscal determination, however, the Navy must understand how much it currently spends on the back end for IT infrastructure. Though Wolborsky says it is a significant challenge to accurately capture those figures, it is still part of the assessment process. Once the analysis is complete, the team can better ascertain the actual cost savings. As Wolborsky and team move forward, they will invariably discover additional savings and assets that could have the potential to change the business process.
The issues are not just technical ones, according to Wolborsky.
“Technically, this initiative is fairly straightforward,” he said. “Much more profound are the changes associated with culture, policy, and advocacy. We have tremendous support from Navy leadership to get this done. However, this is a major change in the way data centers are doing business and it will require a huge cultural shift as well.”
The Task Force is collaborating closely with the data centers that are being consolidated, to ensure a seamless transition of their systems.
“I’ll echo what the Navy’s Deputy Under Secretary Eric Fanning has said, ‘Data center consolidation is essential if the Navy is to successfully meet its business transformational goals in the future,’” said Wolborsky. “This is one of the first, concrete, tangible efficiency initiatives, and sets a precedent for everything that needs to be done to make the Navy more efficient.
“I’m very proud of what our team has been able to accomplish this first year. We are working with our resource sponsors, Command Information Officers, legacy data centers, and industry partners to make this a win for the Navy.”