The Homeland Security Department will soon pilot a program to drive down the cost of its virtualized desktop and mobile services by bundling the two together into a single purchase, Richard Spires, DHS' chief information officer, said Tuesday.
The program, which the department is calling "workplace as a service," will be broken up into several packages, Spires said. Packages for some highly mobile employees will include laptop, smartphone and tablet components -- all with a common set of applications, he said.
Spires was speaking at the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va.
The new service was contracted through CSC and Hewlett-Packard. It will be launched at the department's headquarters in January 2012 and likely will expand to other DHS components later, Spires said.
"We think this is a bit of a game changer," Spires said. "Not that any of this technology is new, but the business model is so different from what we're used to working with and it simplifies our buying of these capabilities."
The virtualized desktop and mobile services will have a common security system, he added.
Both services will be stored in computer clouds, which allow users to access the same applications on multiple devices and will significantly reduce storage and operating costs. The government plans to move roughly one-fourth of its $80 billion information technology footprint to the cloud by 2015, a move officials have said will save the government about $5 billion annually.
"We talk about infrastructure as a service and email as a service . . . and these are great things people can do," Spires said. "But that's kind of the low-hanging fruit. I think you're going to start to see new business models evolve and you'll see more and more bundling of cloud-based services."
Most items that agencies have moved to the cloud so far have been relatively homogenous and easily transferrable, such as email systems and public-facing websites. The government expects to begin moving more complex items to the cloud in the coming months, but has been held back by security concerns and by the lack of a governmentwide accreditation process for cloud vendors.
That accreditation process, called FedRAMP, is largely completed on the technical end but is waiting for the resolution of policy matters, Spires said.
The original version of this story misidentified Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires' first name. The story has been corrected.