Defense clouds: Progress abounds

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DOD continues to innovate its cloud-based systems

When it comes to cloud computing, all areas of the Defense Department have made tremendous progress over the past few years, and that progress shows no signs of slowing down.

There are many reasons for the progress. The primary drivers are efficiency and cost-savings, but the impetus to move forward with real cloud projects that get real results have stemmed from the federal government’s firm push. The move started to gain real momentum last year with the government’s Federal Cloud Computing Strategy and its “Cloud First” policy, which require agencies to consider cloud options before other IT-related investments. Also making it easier for agencies to adopt cloud solutions are FedRAMP, which provides a standard approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services; and a decade-long push toward Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), which allows DoD to create shared enterprise services for everything from messaging and collaboration to content and metadata discovery.

For the Defense Department specifically, the Fiscal 2012 Defense Authorization Bill, approved by Congress in December, required the Pentagon to develop a strategy for migrating data to the cloud by April 1 of this year. To make it even easier to meet these goals, the Defense Department designated DISA to offer enterprise cloud computing capabilities to all parts of the DoD.

The DISA move is especially important, because it allows Defense agencies to move more functions to the cloud with less risk. Examples include the GIG Content Delivery Service (GCDS), which provides cloud services like Web application delivery, storage and high definition streaming; a cloud-based test and development environment that provides servers on demand; and forge.mil, a SaaS-based offering that provides a cloud-based place for software development. DISA is committed to offering all types of cloud-based services: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

“It gives agencies a choice: they can put it in a DISA cloud or they can develop their own private cloud,” said John Slye, a senior principal research analyst at Deltek, a Herndon, Va.-based market research firm focused on the federal market.

So far, the DISA offerings seem to be a resounding success. The Air Force, for example, has launched a “DISA First” policy for its computing and data center needs. The Navy reportedly is interested in having DISA host its portable platform service based on JBoss. The Army has begun migrating its 1.4 million unclassified and 200,000 classified email accounts to a Microsoft Exchange 2010 Enterprise email system hosted by DISA. The Army also plans to purchase enterprise collaboration services from DISA, according to Deltek. Defense Chief Information Officer Teri Takai also has been quoted as saying that the Air Force and Navy also will begin moving to DISA’s email cloud.


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