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US Army HR expects migration to Azure cloud will cut IT costs

The U.S. Army civilian HR operations is hoping for lower operational costs and improved services with a shift to the Microsoft Azure cloud.

The U.S Army is moving its civilian HR services from on-premises data centers to Microsoft's cloud. The migration to Azure has the makings of a big change. Along with shifting Army HR services to the cloud, it plans to move off some of its legacy applications. 

It's a move that the Army said will give it more flexibility and reduce its costs.

The Army Civilian Human Resources Agency (CHRA) is responsible for supporting approximately 300,000 Army civilian employees and 33,000 Department of Defense employees. It provides a full-range of HR services.

The migration to Azure was noted in a contract announcement by Accelera Solutions Inc., a  systems integrator based in Fairfax, Va. The $40.4 million Army contract is for three years. The firm is a Microsoft federal cloud partner.

The federal government, including the Department of Defense, is broadly consolidating data centers and shifting some systems to the cloud.

Shift to cloud will improve HR capabilities

The Army said it is moving its civilian HR services to the cloud for three reasons. The Army "has determined that the cloud is the most effective way to host CHRA operated programs," said Matthew Leonard, an Army spokesperson, in an email. It also needs "a more agile operating environment," he said.

The third benefit of migrating to Azure "will allow for improved overall capabilities at lower cost," Leonard said. "We will not need to expend resources to maintain data centers and expensive hardware," he said.

Some of the Army's savings will come by turning off resources outside of business hours, such as those used for development.

The Army didn't provide an estimate of cost savings. But the Defense Department, in budget documents, has estimated cumulative data center consolidation savings of $751 million from 2017 to 2024.

Our goal is to significantly reduce the number of applications through the use of modern, out-of-the-box platforms.
Matthew LeonardSpokesperson, Army

Some existing Army HR applications will undergo a migration to Azure, but new cloud-based HR applications will be also be adopted as part of this shift. 

"Our goal is to significantly reduce the number of applications through the use of modern, out-of-the-box platforms," Leonard said. Overtime, the Army plans to move other applications to the cloud.

Accelera declined to comment on the award, but in its announcement said its work includes migrating the Army's HR applications from on-premises data center to the Azure cloud. It will also operate the cloud environment.

Microsoft recently was awarded a broader Defense Department contract to host military services in its Azure cloud. The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, or JEDI, is estimated at $10 million over 10 years. AWS, a JEDI contract finalist, is challenging the award in court. 

"The CHRA cloud initiative does seem to be driven more by the data center consolidation initiative that's been around since the Obama administration, and much less by the current flap over JEDI," said Ray Bjorklund, president of government IT market research firm BirchGrove Consulting LLC in Maryland. Migration to the cloud has been a "recurring method" of IT consolidation, he said. 

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