WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- The Army will begin a hybrid cloud pilot program at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama in September once the request for proposal ends and an industry vendor is selected.

The pilot program is an early initiative aimed at securely moving data to the cloud within the Department of Defense, said Lt. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, the Army's chief information officer, who spoke on Thursday, July 14, at the "Network Readiness in a Complex World" panel hosted by the Association of the United States Army.

Hybrid cloud environments can include a combination of on-premises DOD cloud environments such as a milCloud, which is housed in a DOD facility, commercial cloud service providers, and off-premises federal cloud environments, such as those operated by other federal agencies.

The Redstone Arsenal pilot will leverage an on-premises, commercially-owned, commercially-operated cloud model and will last about three years, during which time the Army will share lessons learned with DOD and the other armed services. Redstone is home to 11 Army data center facilities, which will be consolidated to host the pilot.

Although not all data can move to the cloud, future cloud environments will host a wide range of applications consistent with maintaining data security. The cloud is expected to enable a common operating environment and achieve cost savings through more efficient use of computing and data resources.

The cultural shift to the cloud should be smooth, Ferrell conjectured, as many Soldiers are already using cloud services and realize the benefits.

Ferrell added that cloud computing should relieve major commands of some of the information technology burdens so they "can then focus on core competencies."

COLLAPSING DATA CENTERS

Redstone is just one of many Army sites where data centers are located, according to Ferrell. The end goal for the Army is to reduce its hundreds of data centers by fiscal year 2025 to "four enduring sites in CONUS and six abroad," he said. "We're on a glide path" to do that.

REMOVING LEGACY NETWORKS

In addition to collapsing data centers, the Army is collapsing networks at installations into Joint Regional Security Stacks, Ferrell said.

"There are too many separate networks, too many legacy networks, too many vulnerabilities and too many inefficient ways to manage them," he said.

Going to JRSS is "a game changer," he said. The legacy systems provided adversaries too many back doors to get inside. JRSS will provide the necessary security to close those doors, in addition to providing cost savings.

Thus far, 13 installations have transitioned to JRSS, he said. By the end of this year that number will climb to 19 and by the end of the next fiscal year, to 44.

Moreover, migrating behind JRSS is a key element of the Army's movement to the Joint Information Environment. The JIE is a framework that guides each of the services toward a single IT infrastructure, a single security standard and a single architecture, officials said.

WINDOWS 10

The Army is part of a DOD-wide initiative to migrate many of its information technology systems and programs to the Windows 10 operating system. Moving to Windows 10 will offer a number of advantages, to include more security than previous versions, Ferrell said. The focus is on migrating Europe first, followed by forces in Southwest Asia and then the U.S. Early-adopter testing is currently underway in these places.

The DOD mandate is to migrate most systems to Windows 10 by early 2017. There is a waiver process in place for systems and programs that will take longer.

"There's still a lot of work left to do, but the Army is moving quickly to plan and execute the migration," Ferrell said.

"Moving the Army to Windows 10 is a good news story for the Army," Ferrell said, adding that the transition is being made in a way that limits its impact on operations.