This is the third article in a four-part series exploring what federal officials need to consider as agencies begin to look beyond current efforts to consolidate government data centers.

With 100 separate networks and operations in 130 countries, having a multi-secure data center environment with multi-tenancy would be a real game changer said the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Mike Mestrovich.

“The fact that I could have two servers on the same virtual frame both serving different networks of different classifications or different parties is a huge cost saver for us,” said Mestrovich, DIA’s senior technology officer for solutions, during a forum in Washington last month entitled “Beyond Data Center Consolidation.”

Mestrovich’s job is to architect, design and engineer infrastructure services across DIA involving server virtualization, server computing, desk top computing, application delivery, data centers and communications infrastructure.

He is especially looking forward to the day when he has that accredited multi-level secure processing capability.

Individuals theoretically could walk in and out of my building with their tablet, processing classified information…And if it’s compromised it doesn’t matter because there’s nothing actually (on the device).

Data center consolidation is a massive opportunity to improve the DIA security posture, he asserted.

“DIA has systems located in countries that aren’t really secure; our best posture is to have consolidated data centers and to focus our security assets on those fewer data consolidation entry points, as opposed to trying to spread the wealth across the 130 odd countries where we have operations today.”

One of the major issues for DIA is there are 100 separate networks, said Mestrovich.

“I don’t have just one data center to house email, I potentially have to house email for 100 separate different networks. That’s a totally different problem, and there’s a totally different cost model involved with that.”

About This Series: The Federal government is now on track to close 1,080 data centers by 2015 among 3,133 in operation as part of a broader administration effort to reduce duplicative spending. Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel has signaled a new emphasis on doing “more” — by investing in technology creatively–rather than focusing primarily “on the less” associated with cuts, including data center closures. This series reflects how senior agency IT executives view some of the top issues likely to emerge beyond data center consolidation, including security, monitoring, automation, mobility and hosting more applications in the cloud.

Part 1 examined the need to reduce the government’s digital footprint. Part 2 highlighted Army efforts to rationalize its portfolio of 8,000 applications. The next article examines FAA’s efforts to move more of its application to the cloud. The articles and videos in this series were provided by On the Frontlines.

Once Mestrovich has that accredited multi-level secure processing capability, security becomes much more manageable.

“Now I can really invest in mobility, mobile tablets and mobile computers,” he said.

“Individuals theoretically could walk in and out of my building with their tablet, processing classified information during the day, but all of that is being processed in a data center; then when they walk out with it and there’s nothing on it. And if it’s compromised it doesn’t matter because there’s nothing actually there.”

Mestrovich pointed out that this would also reduce his security threat because it would reduce the number of windows into his environment and the fewer windows the significantly more secure environment is at a significantly lower price point than he is has today.

“Those are not too far-reaching technologies. The prototypes for those exist today and we are working with those, but those would be real game changers with us from a cost structure.”

“The question is where in the budget do we say we’re going to stop funding this activity and do some of this data center consolidation activity? Unfortunately in doing that you affect some customer segment of your community who says if you take that away, my mission stops. We have to have those hard discussions,” he acknowledged.

DIA currently has seven major data centers and looking to consolidate. “We need to accelerate that process, so once we cast the dye and say where we are going and we are going to do this consolidation, we need to move quickly to get out of the (operation and maintenance) of the old systems.”

With the vast majority of the data and applications classified, there is no standard public cloud model out that meets DIA requirements, according to Mestrovich.

“However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t public cloud architectures that could not be co-opted into a larger intelligence communitywide data center or cloud architecture that could then be reused in a classified manner,” he outlined.

“So we are not going to outsource stuff to Amazon, but we certainly can take the model and the architectures they have and incorporate them for a larger community type cloud.”