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Army Looks to Cloud Computing to Trim IT Bootprint

<p>Keeping in line with a mandate to trim its data centers from about 200 to 20, the Army recently awarded its first cloud computing contract to several contractors, including Microtech, Lockheed Martin Corp. and IBM.</p>

We've all seen the recent headlines publicizing the Army's push to significantly scale back its operations.

That push reaches far beyond its ground forces to include a fleet of data centers that must shrink from about 200 to 20. The military arm's top IT brass wants the Army to meet this consolidation target ahead of its original deadline of fiscal year 2014.

Keeping in line with this timeline, the Army recently awarded its first cloud computing contract to several contractors to help create its own private cloud, including MicroTech, Lockheed Martin Corp. and IBM.

The five-year, $250 million contract for Army Private Cloud, or APC2 for short, consists of two suites: fixed, hosted virtual operating environments for new or existing applications and mobile data centers, the last of which has been assigned to Vienna, Va.-based MicroTech.

"The Army solicitation for APC2 mobile is not focused on the continental U.S. only, they're looking for deployable data centers that are capable of meeting the environmental conditions outside of the U.S.", said Bill Lytle, MicroTech's senior vice president of Capture, Proposals & IDIQ.

"The solution we have designed is capable of deploying in any of the scenarios within the U.S., but also capable of handling the environmental factors associated with anywhere in the world the Army desires to deploy. We do expect to see some of our solutions going abroad."

I had a chance to touch base with Lytle about the contract recently, as well as Bob Kirsch, MicroTech's director of Integration and Innovation. They explained that the MicroTech MicroKloud product line that will serve under the U.S. Army's contract includes high-capacity data centers that can be deployed in rugged, far flung locales in and out of the U.S.

They range from the MicroPodd desktop data centers to modular and mobile data centers. MicroTech's 20-foot and 40-foot cloud-ready mobile data centers to be used in the Army contract are "designed to be green in nature, and when you compare the configuration -- which is actually based on DC powered half-depth servers that use a process of taking cold air and passing it through, with a PUE of 1.12 -- the cost of cooling is about 80 percent cheaper than the cost of cooling would be for a mobile data center using full depth servers, like Dells, HPs or other full providers powered by AC," Lytle said.

MicroTech will also provide Software as a Service (SAAS), Platform as a Service (PAAS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) to the Army as part of the contract.

The Army also asked for cloud capabilities that meet the security and privacy requirements laid out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. All in all, Kirsch said the Army's computing environment largely resembles that of commercial enterprises. Like a commercial enterprise, Lytle said, the Army also has an eye on the bottom line.

"If you are running a business, costs have been skyrocketing -- facility costs to house the equipment have been skyrocketing, power and cooling -- all of those things, including the individuals who are required to maintain that, have been skyrocketing over the last few years," Lytle said. "All of that goes to the bottom line and your ability to make money."

Cloud computing allow companies to leverage hosted facilities at a fraction of the cost of hosting onsite.

"If you were to overlook the environmental savings and contributions you could make as a company by going more green," Lytle said, "it's hard to overlook the cost savings that you can gain as a business."

Image CC licensed by Flickr user The U.S. Army.

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