According to a Defense Science Board analysis of 32 major automated information system acquisitions, the average time to deliver an initial DoD program capability is 91 months once funding is approved. This is two to three times the average industry IT refresh cycle time, making it difficult to keep pace with user needs and technology evolution. (Department of Defense Cloud Computing Strategy)
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes that they have a problem keeping up with technology and as a result is embracing a strategy for cloud computing. The DoD Cloud Computing Strategy is the official published document that lays out the groundwork, consistent with the broader Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, for accelerating cloud adoption in the Department. Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
DoD Cloud Computing Goal
Implement cloud computing as the means to deliver the most innovative, efficient, and secure information and IT services in support of the Department’s mission, anywhere, anytime, on any authorized device.
The DoD strategy can be summarized as follows:
- The DoD Cloud Computing Strategy introduces an approach to move the Department from the current state of a duplicative, cumbersome, and costly set of application silos to an end state which is an agile, secure, and cost effective service environment that can rapidly respond to changing mission needs.
- The DoD Enterprise Cloud Environment includes separate implementations and data exchanges on Non-secure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet), Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), and Top Secret Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (TS SCI) security domains.
- All cloud services must comply with Department Information Assurance (IA), cybersecurity, continuity, and other policies. The Department will leverage commercially offered cloud services that offer the same or a greater level of protection necessary for DoD mission and information assets. [Department of Defense Cloud Computing Strategy]
One can sense how the DoD wants to leverage current commercial enterprise and consumer cloud computing technology to their advantage. The DoD recognizes the value of a cloud computing strategy but also is clearly aware of the pitfalls that may interfere with mission imperatives. The Department is reducing the number of data centers from about 1,500 to “a number far below that,” Robert J. Carey, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Information Management, Integration and Technology) / Department of Defense Deputy Chief Information Officer, said, and is implementing a coherent and consistent architecture across thousands of computing environments.
The DoD has identified specific cloud computing challenges that require careful adoption considerations, especially in areas of cybersecurity, continuity of operations, information assurance (IA), cybersecurity, and resilience. Additional challenges include service acquisition and funding sustainment, data migration and management, and overcoming network dependence at the tactical edge (where users are often Disconnected, Intermittent and Low-bandwidth (DIL) users).
DoD Enterprise Cloud Environment
The move to consolidated data centers is guided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cloud Computing Reference Architecture, and the NIST Cloud Computing Standards Roadmap. Leveraging the NIST guidance, the DoD Cloud Reference Architecture includes a modular infrastructure that scales up for deployment within large, Continental United States (CONUS) data centers and scales down to offer containerized and small footprint computing resources in regional facilities and deployed tactical edge environments.
Consolidated Core Data Centers will Form the Basis of the Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure
The DoD wants the same costs savings already realized by commercial enterprises. In data center operations, this should be a relatively easy goal to achieve. Where it gets a bit more challenging is with deployed tactical edge environments where the deployed platforms are more heterogeneous. Multi-service defense systems have widely varying missions with many unique needs. The DoD has always faced a challenge getting the various armed services to work together to develop common platform strategies. I just don’t see this going away anytime soon, leaving the door open for a wealth of divergent platforms.
Key elements from the DoD Cloud Computing Strategy that most impact Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance members center around efforts to optimize data center consolidation. The Department wants to reduce hardware footprints in data centers by implementing server virtualization and infrastructure-as-a-service. Data centers throughout the DoD will be consolidated into smaller, core data centers that will reduce the number of different hardware platforms, resulting in savings in equipment, facility, and operational costs. Information security is another key element that will require support from both hardware and software suppliers before their products can be implemented as part of this strategy.
I looked at Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members with enterprise solutions and cloud computing initiatives to determine how they are addressing my questions. Here are some of my observations.
Dell believes that cloud computing is not a technology but rather a strategy. Federal agencies have the same IT needs and opportunities as their private sector counterparts, but they demand a different approach. Dell is committed to developing solutions that match business vision and drive them forward with maximum flexibility and minimum risk. They work with customers and organizations to build on technologies and processes already in place. Dell Federal Government Solution’s case-by-case approach is used to determine the right technology and services for an agency, including cloud computing, data center modernization, employee mobility initiatives and cybersecurity.
Hewlett-Packard appears to be more aggressive with a cloud computing strategy focused on federal government needs. They already manage and secure two of the largest intranets in the world for the U.S. Department of Navy and UK Ministry of Defense. HP Cloud Services for Government clients can select from of an array of HP’s commercially available cloud offerings as well as those designed to meet specific Public Sector needs. HP cloud sourcing options include Private Cloud, Virtual Private Cloud (enterprise-class, managed, highly secure multi-tenant cloud), Public Cloud services, or a combination.
Microsoft approaches cloud computing as a way to help customers take a key step toward better business agility, economics, and user experiences. The cloud presents an opportunity to redefine the role IT plays in implementing a business’s strategy. Microsoft Cloud Computing for Government provides scalable, on-demand cloud computing services to help government organizations focus on mission-critical objectives, while helping to reduce IT costs.
Oracle provides aerospace and defense organizations with a complete, open, and integrated suite of business applications, server, and storage solutions engineered to work together to optimize every aspect of their business. Oracle Cloud Computing Services provides enterprise-grade cloud solutions, including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
Intel launched their Cloud 2015 Vision to help businesses implement cloud computing solutions that are federated, automated, and client-aware. This vision offers the promise of swiftly responding to the demands of users. With federated clouds, IT can rapidly scale computing resources, while client-aware clouds enable the delivery of optimized applications to end-user devices. Intel Cloud Builders is a cross-industry initiative aimed at making it easier to build, enhance, and operate cloud infrastructure. Here you will find an extensive library of cloud computing tools and solutions in the Cloud Builders Reference Architecture Library.
Intel delivers leading foundational technology that improves your ability to optimize, scale, and better secure your server, network, and storage infrastructure. Intel provides practical implementation guidance and tools, including proven reference architectures from more than 50 leading systems and solutions providers.
From what I can discern, there does not appear to be any significant change in strategy for Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance members that are supplying commercial enterprise products that is driven by the DoD Cloud Computing Strategy. Since the DoD is placing a heavy emphasis on using commercial grade equipment, they are not necessarily looking for the suppliers to do anything beyond what they do to support commercial initiatives or current needs for specific operational conditions. Security is a top priority for nearly all user types of cloud computing and is clearly reflect in the DoD plan. The DoD does have some unique mission critical needs that they address through mission networks that are special purpose with their own cloud computing services, especially in edge environments.
All of the companies reviewed have federal government or defense and aerospace business units in place that are already key contributors to the DoD strategy. They all have solid commercial enterprise solutions and a focus on cloud computing. Most have government cloud computing called out as part of their overall strategy.
Fortunately, for most Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance members, cloud computing neutralizes many hardware and software dependencies. With security, interoperability, and portability cited as major barriers to broader adoption, the opportunities for alliance members to contribute to the cloud computing strategy remain high. Most of the members focus on products that are used in edge devices so having fast wide-area network access is the single most important aspect for participation in any cloud computing strategy. These members should be aware of what is going on in the big picture, especially as it relates to the barriers to be sure that they can take full advantage of future opportunities.
The DoD Cloud Computing Strategy was published in July of 2012. It is evolving and should be studied if you are serving this market.