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Army Windows 10 migration will miss deadline and has long road ahead

The Army is making some headway on switching to Windows 10, but it is still lagging behind the Defense Department’s 2017 deadline and legacy systems are further weighing down the service’s progress.

The Army does not expect to finish its first phase of transitions in Europe until the second quarter of next year, said Army Chief Information Officer Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell. That is half a year behind the January 2017 deadline to adopt Windows 10 set by Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen.

“In Europe now we are focused on the early adopters. I think we are testing about 13 instruments now and in [the United States] about the same. I think by… the second quarter of next year we’ll have Europe completed with the transition and then we will focus on [the United States,” Ferrell said during a July 14 event at the Association of the United States Army in Arlington, Virginia.

In addition, some Army legacy programs of record and systems may take even longer to switch, an Army spokesman told Federal News Radio. Those programs may require waivers for their tardiness.

The Army is anticipating its programs of record revolving around weapons, aviation, logistics and medical systems will be the most complicated to switch to Windows 10, the Army spokesman said.

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Four months ago Army Chief Information Officer Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell said there would be huge challenges in moving to Windows Ten because not all of the service’s legacy systems were compatible with the operating system.

Ferrell hired Microsoft engineers to assess what legacy systems would be hardest to transition.

What’s holding those systems back is that they are linked up to ensure interoperability with other systems. The systems are in use and migrating to a new operating system requires detailed planning and must not break the connectivity between systems.

One example is the Army’s mission command system that provides uninterrupted mission command using a network of capabilities. That’s a system the Army just can’t turn off to update, and if it did the other systems it relies on must continue to be compatible with it.

“Migrating to a new operating system requires detailed planning and must be accomplished in a way that ensures interoperability, and allows us to maximize the benefits of the Windows 10 [operating system], while also minimizing the impact on the programs of record,” the Army spokesman said.

Other reasons legacy systems cause a problem is programs of record have longer planning cycle and are managed differently.

The Army still does not have a timeline as to when the legacy systems will adopt Windows 10.

“We will develop a plan of action and milestones for our programs of record that meets the objectives of the Windows 10 transition, i.e. enhanced cybersecurity, increased efficiency and commonality from using a single operating system, while also accounting for the unique requirements and life-cycle of each program,” the Army spokesman said.

The Army is also lacking a price tag for the whole Windows 10 transition. The Army spokesman told Federal News Radio the Army is analyzing training, replacement devices and surge transition support requirements, which will affect the overall transition cost.

“As we begin our controlled rollout of Windows 10, we will collect and analyze these cost drivers, which will inform our budget program objective memorandum cycle and ensure we have the resources needed to complete the transition,” the Army spokesman said.

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That isn’t to say the Army is not making progress on its Windows 10 transition. The Army anticipates more than 1.1 million end-user devices will be affected by the transition and about 900 programs of record.

The Army is implementing a synchronized migration strategy focused on building the necessary backend infrastructure to support the transition across Europe and southwest Asia.

The service has also established a general officer steering committee to lead and execute the transition.

Ferrell said in March that the Army would have trouble transitioning to Windows 10 by DoD’s deadline.

“Huge challenges in [moving to Windows 10],” Ferrell said. “The mandate is to move to that environment within one year. We are challenged with that. We think it’s going to be a lot longer than that.”

Halvorsen directed the full transition to Windows 10 last year. By transitioning all systems to the operating system DoD is creating a secure host baseline.

A secure host baseline is a preconfigured and security hardened machine-ready image that contains an organization’s common operating systems and application software, states a factsheet by the National Security Agency.

“This provides administrators with a common core operating picture that makes it easier to identify and isolate anomalies … In addition to reducing security risks, building [a secure host baseline] image lowers the overall cost of managing a network,” the factsheet states.

The transition is part of an overall effort to harden the department and military service’s networks. DoD and the Army are putting their networks behind the Joint Regional Security Stacks and is consolidating their databases.

Those databases and the information stored in them will be moved to private servers or public/private server hybrids.

Ferrell told Federal News Radio the Army will release a directive mandating the closure of datacenters worldwide.

The directive will dictate exactly what data centers will close and when, Ferrell said.

The Army still has hundreds of data centers. Ferrell said the Army will ultimately have only four enduring data sites in the United States and six abroad.

“We’ve had the Army data center consolidation plan out for a number of years and I think we’ve reached the point where we’ve gathered all the low hanging fruit, so we’ve reached sort of a plateau and that’s one of the things that keeps [Lt.] Gen. Ferrell up at night,” said Col. e, chief of enterprise architecture for the Army CIO.

The directive will give the data center closure policy more teeth and set firm deadlines for data center closures.

There is a modernization and migration cost associated with closing datacenters. Bases that host centers do not know where the information in the centers will go or what the true cost of the migration will be. Therefore, the hosts have dragged their feet.

“We are looking at an incentive package that we are going to apply toward that to assist the application owners in the migration and some level of the hosting cost for at least the first year,” Rozsnyai said. “You’re going to start to see now a lot of the, I don’t want to call it excuses, but pushback — that ‘I don’t have any money and I couldn’t [budget] for it because I didn’t know what it was going to cost.’ You’re going to see some of that go away.”