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GCN : August 2015
stay within NASA's infrastructure, said Roopangi Kadakia, the agency's Web services executive, at a recent cloud secu- rity conference hosted by GCN sister publication FCW. But by using the hybrid cloud, she added, "I can actually start building applications. I can take advantage of that data [produced by legacy systems] in different ways, in more innovative ways that wouldn't be possible if we had to keep it all within our environment." Kadakia has also talked about how NASA's flagship portal, NASA.gov --- with its 150 applications and some 200,000 pages of content --- took just 13 weeks to move. And that included upgrading from the old technology where the site was previously hosted. To move NASA's more than 64,000 applications to the cloud requires assessing the security risks, she said. The least risky approach is a staggered migration that involves moving some 10 percent of NASA's publicly accessible web- sites to the cloud each year. However, Ed Airey, product marketing director at Micro Focus, said migrating systems and applications is not the only way to improve them, and in some cases, it might not be necessary or even possible to do that, particularly when the platforms or the applications running on them are stra- tegic to the organization. "Platforms in many ways can be considered separate from the applications," he said. "The applications themselves can retain the business rules and logic and the data itself, while being reconfigured to operate and interact with modern technologies such as Java and Microsoft's .NET." The problem with trying to upgrade cornerstone, decades- old Cobol systems is that an agency has invested years of development effort in the applications based on them, and much of the business and mission success of the organiza- tion depends on that. So the first thing an agency must do is get a full appreciation and understanding of how those applications work, Airey said. And that's not always easy. "In some cases, applications are very well documented, and [agencies] have the staff and resources in place to not only support the application but also to understand how the different business components fit together," he said. "But as people retire or move on, and in some cases as the technol- ogy itself changes, that landscape becomes more complex." Kadakia said conducting an application audit to identi- fy and mitigate critical vulnerabilities, some of which the applications' users were not aware of, was responsible for much of the cost of NASA's migration. When agencies lack documentation or insight, change be- comes risky because administrators don't fully understand the implications of what they are about to do, Airey said. Because of that fear, they sometimes defer the changes and end up with a much bigger problem further down the road. THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT CURRENTLY SPENDS 80 PERCENT OF ITS IT BUDGET ON EXISTING SYSTEMS. AND THE NAVY RECENTLY AWARDED A $9.1 MILLION CONTRACT TO MICROSOFT TO SUPPORT LEGACY WINDOWS PROGRAMS SUCH AS XP. THE DEAL COULD RUN THROUGH 2017 AND EVENTUALLY COST MORE THAN $30 MILLION. GCN AUGUST 2015 • GCN.COM 19