DHS tackling early barriers to enterprise IT solutions

Major IT changes, such as migrating legacy systems to meet government cloud computing initiatives, are proving difficult for the Department of Homeland Security, but progress has been made recently, department CIO Richard Spires told Federal Computer Week (FCW). Spires believes that even with most of the cultural barriers in the rearview mirror, tough changes still are still on the horizon if the DHS wants to meet its budgetary goals.

"If we implement these [IT changes] right … we're seeing some very dramatic changes in costs," Spires told FCW. "The hardest thing … is trying to get this huge organization we call DHS to look at itself from more of a functional perspective than just from a component-organizational perspective. That's not an easy thing to do, but I think we're making some progress."

Data center consolidation

Closing and consolidating data centers is a primary goal for many agencies, thanks to a federal directive to eliminate more than 1,000 by 2015. The DHS has placed the initiative among it's top budget priorities for 2013. A dozen DHS data centers have been shuttered already, with 12 more set to close this year. Forty-three DHS centers in total are on the list to be closed, according to DatacenterDynamics.

FCW recently reported that the plan calls for all data to be housed in two enterprise data centers.

"Overall it's going well, but it's not easy," Spires told FCW about the consolidation effort. "I think we're past the cultural barriers for the most part … but this is true exploration when you get into these legacy data centers. No matter what you think you're walking into, you can probably double the complexity."

Among civilian agencies, DHS' budget trails only the Department of Health and Human Services, according to DatacenterDynamics. IT costs represent more than $5.7 billion of the DHS' overall $40 billion budget, down from about $5.8 billion in 2012.

Cloud solutions

Initiatives to move DHS functions over to new enterprise IT solutions are further along than the consolidation effort, according to FCW. OneNet, the agency's wide-area network infrastructure, is 99 percent completed, according to Spires, with 250,000 users already supported.

Cloud solutions, including various as-a-Service options are being deployed for email and other projects. Email has seen 27,000 users migrate thus far with public-facing websites and customer-relationship management following in the near future. Nine cloud services for sensitive data and three more public clouds for non-sensitive information are in the development stages, according to DatacenterDynamics.

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