Contract signals shift in intelligence agencies' cloud and big data plans

A DISA contract, more public than a recent CIA deal, reveals some of what the intell community has in mind for cloud services.

eye in the sky

A DISA contract, more public than a recent CIA deal, reveals some of what the intell community has in mind for cloud services. (Stock image)

Another day, another cloud services contract for an agency within the intelligence community. The Defense Information Systems Agency has awarded a $45 million contract to Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Maryland-based company that specializes in IT infrastructure and cloud computing.

Unlike the private cloud deal worth up to $600 million over ten years between Amazon Web Services and the Central Intelligence Agency that was first reported by FCW, some details of this contract are public, and they suggest where the IC is headed with regards to big data and the cloud: Storage as a Service (SaaS), ultra-high security and accessibility, and scalability to several exabytes of data.

What we know about this cloud

Alliance Technology Group will build an unnamed intelligence agency an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) private cloud to store "hundreds of billions of objects," and is scalable to as much as four exabytes, according to a justification document for no-compete procurement.

The document, of which much is blacked out likely for national security implications, is legally required when anything other than a full bid competition takes place, and was authored by Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization-National Capital.

Alliance Technology Group won the contract without a bid competition because DISA determined it was "the sole contractor" with the ability to develop the Large Data Object Storage services with proper bandwidth at a secure, geographically-accessible location. (See Washington Technology for more information on this aspect of the contract.)

The private cloud will "accommodate current and future data types," according to the document, including Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI), Standard and High Definition (HD) Full Motion Video (FMV), HyperSpectral, Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) and SAR data formats.

It will also be Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) compliant, capable of ingesting, accessing and managing geospatial data, and its OGC services will be supported by a "Google-like" search service, the document states. The cloud will also be equipped to accept geospatial content from mobile devices and all sensor data types. It will also support the U.S. Air Force's Gorgon Stare 2 WAMI data requirements, meaning it can ingest the wide-area surveillance data from drones and other sources.

It also appears the cloud is scalable through individual 10-petabyte "mass storage units" connected together via an IP network. Once connected, they form an ISR storage cloud "that maintains a single, global name-space capable of storing hundreds of billions of objects."

This emerging technology of large object data storage services is something the IC appears to believe is critical to future missions.

"The assistant secretary of defense has articulated a vision for transforming the information environment within DOD," the justification document states. "The envisioned changes represent a fundamental paradigm shift from providing platform-centric applications to platform-independent web-enabled net-centric services that meet the requirements of the end users, and which are highly available, secure and reliable.

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