The Army Contracting Command (ACC) will remove those bulky desktop computers from underneath most of its employees’ desks in the coming year or so. The ACC is preparing to go to a zero-client setup for its computer network.
Gino Magnifico, the chief information officer of the Army Contracting Command, said the command’s move to the cloud in 2010 really set the stage for the decision to give employees a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and remove the rest of the computer from their desks.
“It’s really taking that last big step over into the cloud and putting everything on to that cloud, and really managing from that perspective,” he said on Federal News Radio’s Ask the CIO radio show. “It will help us in many different ways. From security to control of the applications themselves to establishing baselines will certainly help. One of the key areas a zero-client environment provides you is the ability to save a ton of money on your IT platform costs — your enterprise lifecycle management costs go way down. You are buying devices now that basically are cloud devices so they are no longer sustaining powerful platforms on to themselves.”
Magnifico said he estimates the cost could be as much as five-times less for zero client setups as compared to the typical client-server arrangement.
“As we start looking at these capabilities — and that’s why these new systems are an exciting development because they are targeted toward these kinds of environments — and as they come online you are no longer dealing with 14, 15, 18-year-old architectures that aren’t optimized to work in these zero-client environments,” he said. “The benefit of making that investment, going to a new system, has a lot of new different levels of benefit certainly to the Army, certainly to ACC, but really to the user. The cloud frees everyone up to work from different environments.”
Along with a zero-client architecture, the cloud is letting the ACC deploy lighter weight applications that can run on mobile devices and in areas of the world where bandwidth isn’t strong.
Magnifico said the ACC is working with its counterparts in the Army to develop a new contract writing system. The current system is more than a decade old.
Over the last few years, the contracting command has led a team of experts developing the requirements and reengineering processes.
“One of the key roles we are looking at is the fact that the ACC is a global command, so apps and capabilities that we field into that environment always present a unique challenge,” Magnifico said. “That means we have to leverage other architectures and capabilities to make sure these apps that we are looking to field can operate in those environments. It’s a big role for the CIO to oversee that and make sure we incorporate not just the business aspects, but a technology platform that these contracting platforms have to operate on, and that we streamline capabilities so we can provide them in a centralized cloud based environment.”
Magnifico said the Army will not implement the new contracting system for a few more years.
Mobile computing is another area the ACC is starting to move into because of how it has implemented cloud.
He said the ACC is developing the contract writing system and other apps to work on smartphones and tablets.
“One of our primary goals when we look at those kinds of platforms is to be able to leverage the same tool sets that we use in sustainment operations as we do in contingency or expeditionary environments. The old concept of train like you fight and fight like you train comes into play there,” Magnifico said. “In the past, we developed specific tools for deployable capabilities or satellite communications environments or deployed expeditionary capabilities. We want to move away from that. We want to be able to use the same tools whether we are stateside, whether we are in a sustained operations location overseas or whether we are in an expeditionary environment. To do that and be in the cloud, we will have to have a lot of service aspects defined, optimized and provided to the users as they go out. So, we have to figure out really smart ways to reduce latency and make the tools as real time as possible.”