DHS CIO touts cloud

The Homeland Security Department has aggressively embraced cloud computing, said DHS Chief Information Officer Richard Spires before an Oct. 6 House panel.

The department has identified 12 cloud services it has either already stood up or plans to do so over the next 24 months, Spires told the House Homeland Security subcommittee on cybersecurity, infrastructure protection and security technologies.

In his written testimony, he elaborated that nine of the services are running, or will run, in the DHS private cloud, with the other three located in the public cloud. Federal agencies are under an Office of Management and Budget mandate to have one cloud solution in place by December 2011 and three cloud-based services by June 2012.

A popular move among agencies has been to select email as a cloud service, something that DHS has done as well, starting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Spires said. By the end of the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2012, more than 100,000 users across the department should have been migrated to it, Spires said.

Spires said in his written testimony that other private cloud DHS initiatives are:

  • SharePoint as a Service, starting with Citizenship and Immigration Services, but with the goal of having nearly 90,000 DHS-wide users on the service by the end of calendar year 2011.
  • Development and Test as a Service, permitting DHS to provision servers for development and testing within a day. The service, which should come online by December, will also provide on-demand testing and application management tools.
  • Infrastructure as a Service, with initial capabilities planned for availability by the end of the 2011 calendar year.
  • Workplace as a Service, an effort to provide virtual desktop, remote access and other mobile services over the next 24 months.
  • Project Server as a Service, which will permit DHS workers to publish project schedules for easier sharing; it should be available starting in November.
  • Authentication as a Service, already in effect for 250,000 federal and contractor employees.
  • Case and Relationship Management as a Service, to be available over the course of the winter and spring, starting with a pilot litigation case management capability for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration redress services, regulations tracking for DHS, and customer relationship capacities within USCIS.
  • Business Intelligence as a Service, already commenced in March 2011 as a pilot that should develop into a full service offering during fiscal 2013, which starts on Oct. 1, 2012.

The three public cloud offerings, Spires said, are:

  • Identity Proofing as a Service, which already supports USCIS's e-Verify Self Check.
  • Enterprise Content Delivery as a Service, already supporting 70 percent of public DHS websites.
  • Web Content Management as a Service, using which DHS will consolidate its public websites over the next 2 years.

DHS recently awarded a contract to CGI Federal, a Fairfax, Va.-based subsidiary Canadian-based CGI, for web content management as a service, using a General Services Administration blanket purchase agreement.

DHS's choice of a Canada-affiliated company caused Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), the subcommittee chairman, to ask about data security. "We are close to Canada, but it is another country, as I recall," Lungren said. Spires said CGI Federal has agreed to host all DHS data in data centers located within the United States.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (prepared testimonies and webcast available)

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