Turns out, there already is a cloud for spooks

The NSA is running an OpenStack cloud

A week and a half ago, a well-researched article in Federal Computer Weekly indicated that the CIA had asked Amazon for help building a private cloud.

As it turns out, another spy agency, the National Security Agency, already has a private cloud, this one built on OpenStack.

detective.jpgSource: olarte.ollie, via Flickr
The NSA is running an OpenStack cloud.

A computer scientist for NSA plans to reveal more in a couple weeks at OpenStack’s annual conference. A brief description of his presentation indicates that the NSA is already running a cloud based on OpenStack. Here’s the entire description of the talk, under the headline of "OpenStack at the National Security Agency":

“What does ‘cloud’ mean at NSA and a discussion of how OpenStack fits into the NSA ecosystem. How a small team drove massive process and efficiency change to become one of the NSA's largest hosting platforms. Fostering an environment where creativity and development risk are balanced within the bounds of existing enterprise processes and priorities. Methods for avoiding the ‘tragedy of the commons.’ More coming soon.”

Nathanael Burton is the computer scientist with the NSA who will give the presentation.

When OpenStack was first released, it seemed the initial momentum was behind private deployments. That may have been due to a combination of factors including business concerns about using public clouds and the time it took for public providers to build their clouds. These days, I hear more about the public OpenStack clouds but that doesn't mean organizations aren't still building them internally.

Like the CIA, the NSA probably crunches tons of data. Using a cloud architecture makes sense because it can boost efficiency and unleash creativity as developers find it easier to deploy apps.

There was a time that some camps warned that open source software ought to raise security concerns but those worries passed ages ago. I dug up this Computerworld story from 2003 about the Department of Defense officially authorizing the use of open source software at the department.

I’ll be attending the OpenStack Summit in a couple weeks and will plan to add more details about the NSA OpenStack implementation once I hear the presentation. Stay tuned.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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