SpinSys Accelerates Defense Health Agency Migration of Applications and Data to AWS GovCloud in Days Instead of Months

Executive Summary

AWS Advanced Tier Partner SpinSys worked with the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to migrate 253 physical servers and more than 1.7 petabytes of data to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 93 days instead of 21 months, cut provisioning time by 99 percent, and helped DHA save $33 million over five years. SpinSys led the team of teams collaboration to move DHA’s mission-critical MHS Information Platform to AWS GovCloud (US).

Seeking to Enhance Scalability and Security for a Critical Data Platform

The Defense Health Agency (DHA) is a key US government organization that enables the US Army, Navy, and Air Force medical services to provide a medically ready force to Combatant Commands in wartime and peacetime. As part of its mission, DHA manages healthcare for Military Health System (MHS) beneficiaries, including active duty, reserve, national guard, veterans, and family members.

The agency’s mission-critical MHS Information Platform (MIP) is DHA’s largest data repository. The MIP provides health data, business intelligence, health registries, dashboards, service member health data repositories, health records, centralized reporting of outpatient and inpatient data, and other critical information delivery capabilities for 80,000 MHS clinicians, analysts, defense health leaders, and military service medical departments.

For over a decade, DHA hosted MIP in an on-premises data center, which had become increasingly inefficient. “Hardware and software technology refreshes were costly, and we were also concerned about the security vulnerabilities of aging data center equipment,” says Trey Oats, information dominance evangelist for the Medical Information Delivery Integrated Product Team supporting DHA, the Enterprise Intelligence and Data Solutions Program Management Office, and the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Defense Health Information Technology Division.

DHA also needed a better ability to scale the MIP environment to meet rapid data growth and conducted a Department of Defense Business Case Analysis to chart the best path forward, which resulted in the selection of AWS. “MIP has multiple terabytes of data, and the platform is growing every day,” Oats says. “We knew the cloud would drive scalability and meet our security and cost requirements for the MIP’s more than 250 physical servers hosting 60-plus applications. We ultimately needed a technology partner to help us with such a large migration.”

"We have not had to go through the government procurement process to buy a physical server in over two years since moving to AWS, and that means we can respond faster to our internal customers."

- Trey Oats, Information Dominance Evangelist, MID IPT Supporting DHA, EIDS PMO, and the NIWC DHIT Division

SpinSys Leads a Migration of 1.7 Petabytes of Data to AWS GovCloud (US)

DHA, in partnership with NIWC, turned to Spin Systems (SpinSys), its longtime technology partner, to lead the migration to the cloud and integrate the team of teams across government and industry alike. SpinSys, an AWS Partner, has supported DHA for more than 10 years and previously moved DHA workloads to AWS. “We had created a small AWS footprint for DHA, and the agency was ready for the next big move to AWS,” says Lou Ferrucci, director of healthcare innovation at SpinSys. Because MIP houses large amounts of protected health information, SpinSys recommended to move the platform to AWS GovCloud (US), which is used for hosting sensitive data and regulated workloads.

SpinSys coordinated and planned the large-scale data center migration from DHA’s data center to AWS GovCloud (US). Shortly after the project began, an external business risk created an urgent need to accelerate the migration. To support this, SpinSys established a “team of teams” collaborative approach that included three NIWC teams, three DHA divisions, SpinSys professionals, AWS architects and project managers, and more than 20 industry partners. SpinSys led the team of teams collaboration to move DHA’s mission-critical MHS Information Platform to AWS GovCloud (US) in support of the DHA chief information officer’s prioritization of the accelerated migration led by Justin Fanelli, DHA chief architect. Fanelli worked hand in hand with SpinSys during the migration.

The teams’ discovery phase resulted in the creation of a MIP cloud transition plan for moving the infrastructure and more than 750 databases to AWS GovCloud (US). Next, SpinSys used AWS Snowball appliances and the Multiplatform, Data Acquisition, Collection, and Analytics solution to migrate more than 1.7 petabytes of data with personally identifiable information and protected health information for DHA’s more than 9.5 million beneficiaries into an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) environment on AWS GovCloud (US). “We transformed the MIP to a fully AWS GovCloud (US)–hosted platform for applications, tools, and services, and helped DHA facilitate flexible development, testing, and production of new solutions,” Ferrucci says.

Completing a Cloud Migration in 93 Days Instead of 21 Months

Leading a collaborative team approach, SpinSys helped DHA complete its migration of the MIP environment to AWS 18 months earlier than planned. “We planned for the cloud migration to take 21 months, but our team of teams migrated the entire MIP to AWS in 93 days to meet the business requirement timeline,” says Ferrucci. The teams also achieved four separate Risk Management Framework Authority to Operate (ATO) certifications during the migration. “A typical ATO determination would take about a year for just one, and we completed four of them within those 93 days by virtue of the cybersecurity posture, accreditation artifacts, and strength of the teams we put together,” says Ferrucci. The conversion of physical servers to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances running on AWS GovCloud (US) resulted in a 61 percent footprint reduction overall.

Reducing Server Provisioning Time by 99% and Delivering New Capabilities Faster

By migrating MIP to AWS, SpinSys helped DHA reduce the average server provisioning time by 99 percent, based on DHA’s previous time required to procure, install, secure, and configure a new physical server in the data center. “We have not had to go through the government procurement process to buy a physical server in over two years since moving to AWS, and that means we can respond faster to our internal customers,” says Oats. “Now, we can begin new work for a customer in hours or weeks instead of 6–9 months waiting on a server to be shipped and racked in a data center, resulting in the right data getting into the right hands at the right time to improve healthcare. We can use agile, scalable processes to bring improved decision-making to defense health leaders and clinicians to support the healthcare and readiness of the nation’s warfighters.”

As an example, DHA recently helped an internal customer develop a genomics solution that helps clinicians more quickly read DNA samples. “Within a few months, we created the idea and helped the customer address a problem they couldn’t previously, so they could help doctors read and process DNA immediately instead of waiting on air mail delivery,” says Oats. “This is just one example of the power of AWS and the insights MIP can provide by hosting and running health workloads on AWS GovCloud.”

Enhancing Security, Saving $33 Million over 5 Years

DHA further enhanced the security of MIP by moving to AWS. “We implemented an in-depth, multi-layered strategy using AWS that includes specific defense features for zero-day detection,” says Ferrucci. “As a result, the MIP’s security posture is significantly enhanced with defense in depth under the Shared Responsibility model.” SpinSys also helped DHA increase the availability of the MIP environment. “Using AWS, we have the ability to ensure MIP is reliable and always available, and we can also quickly restore it in the event of a catastrophe because we’re leveraging AWS high availability,” Oats says.

Additionally, by avoiding server maintenance and refreshes, eliminating several commercial products, and automating numerous business and technical processes, DHA estimated it will save $33 million over a five-year span, as noted in Fanelli’s outbrief to leadership. SpinSys is now working to help DHA expand MIP and drive additional efficiencies on AWS. “We’re working together to do things more efficiently and securely, and our activities with DHA will continue to build on this foundational success,” Ferrucci concludes. “This is not just an infrastructure or platform—it’s a true partnership that will continue to bring new capabilities to MIP that help DHA effectively and efficiently perform its mission.”

Defense Health Agency

About the Defense Health Agency

The Defense Health Agency (DHA) is a joint, integrated combat support agency that enables the US Army, Navy, and Air Force medical services to provide a medically ready force in peacetime and wartime. The DHA supports the delivery of integrated, affordable, and high-quality health services to Military Health System (MHS) beneficiaries and drives greater integration of clinical and business processes across the MHS.

About Spin Systems

SpinSys, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, provides a comprehensive range of cloud services including stabilizing, modernizing, and migrating legacy and complex enterprise applications, developing migration plans and roadmaps, creating solutions for Big Data problems, refactoring applications, and developing new cloud-based systems.

Published August 2022