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Focus On The Desired End State!

October 10, 2013

By DALE MEYERROSE | On the Frontlines Magazine
September/October 2013

General Meyerrose is an internationally respected subject matter expert on leadership, strategic planning, cybersecurity, information technology, intelligence, and military matters. He has more than three and a half decades of business, military, U.S. government, and academic experience.

He was the first President-appointed, Senate-confirmed Associate Director of National Intelligence/Intelligence Community Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Information Sharing Executive for the Director of National
Intelligence (DNI).

He is a lecturer for Carnegie Mellon University, Institute for Software Research running the Cybersecurity Leadership Certificate program. General Meyerrose, a Southwest Asia veteran,  recently shared his views with OTFL on how government should approach Data Center Consolidation, retire legacy systems and pay for future IT resources.

The Move To Next Generation Data/Cyber Centers

The last two decades of my government career as a Chief Information Officer was a study in contrasts. In the earlier decade I spent considerable energy building data facilities. During the latter ten years I spent just as much time trying to close them. Why the professional schizophrenia? Simply put, the nature of the business fundamentally changed.

Twenty years ago we were in the heady IT days of building the organizational network-centric environment. To unleash that power we had to move the IT infrastructure and hardware from under the system administrators’ desks and out of wiring closets.

For reasons of efficiency, reliability, integration, talent issues, and span of control these data rooms grew into campus and organizational Data Centers. For geographically dispersed organizations we created regional Data Centers.

Then the “technology cheese” moved again. The extension of the same logic that created the need for Data Centers in the first place also forms the basis for consolidating U.S. government IT infrastructure into a relatively few number of next-generation Data/Cyber Centers.

Efficient Operation Is Paramount

The large-scale ability to virtualize machines and the evolving nature of “everything as a service” provisioning has rendered using square footage obsolete as a meaningful measure of a Data/Cyber Center. And it is often deceptive. More relevant concepts now articulate power consumption, computing density, and functionality.

The single biggest life cycle cost factor associated with Data/Cyber Centers is the utility bill — which is greater than site acquisition, facility construction and maintenance, IT procurement, operations, and tech refresh, combined.

Prime consideration now becomes a Data/Cyber Center location that can deliver both lowcost electricity and water with easy and diverse accesses to the information grid.

Break The Mold

A major disconnect to moving government IT infrastructure into the 21st Century is the upfront investment needed. Given that there is little appetite for higher IT budgets in the current environment, the crux of the issue is finding the resources necessary to pay for the change.

Perhaps a methodology for attacking this issue might be to ignore definitions all together and instead focus on the desired end state.

Consider evaluating organizational IT budgets in terms of a ratio between maintaining legacy systems and new initiatives/investment.

Based on my experience I would guess in many agencies 80% of an organization’s IT budget (the entire IT budget, not just the CIO’s) goes to maintaining legacy systems and existing services, while 20% addresses new services/programs and capital investment.

The idea is to systematically make fewer resources available for legacy operations (no matter what the percentage happens to be) and force more to be spent on the changed IT infrastructure of fewer next-generation Data/Cyber Centers.

The execution mechanism would be through budget appropriations and specific direction as to how the redirected money has to be spent—using industry best practices as a guide for the “art-of-the-doable.”

The implications would be multi-faceted. The affected agency would still be responsible for making trade-offs based on their priorities. The rate of redirected funds could be tailored by department; those in dire need of new IT infrastructure could proceed faster than those with a more up-to-date one. Also, inefficient, more expensive IT could be forced out of the inventory sooner.

Original On the Frontlines Magazine Article

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