Pentagon develops cloud computing strategy

DoD seeks efficiency, elasticity in new cloud computing effort

The lure of cloud computing is powerful enough to attract even the Pentagon, which released a public outline of its cloud computing strategy this week.

Initially, the idea of putting some of the most super-secret data on the planet out in the cloud might seem a bit counter-intuitive. After all, recent outages within Amazon Web Service's public cloud would seem to discourage an organization like the Department of Defense (DoD) to start seriously using cloud-based systems.

But the agility of the cloud computing, and the idea of automated resource management was simply too powerful of a draw.

"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 plan stated.

And it's not like the DoD is going to sign up for AWS or RackSpace. This will undoubtedly be private cloud operations, using the Pentagon's existing infrastructure. In other words, no one's finding out about Roswell any time soon.

According to the document, the DoD's cloud strategy will focus on department-oriented cloud services, and will use an outreach program to get IT managers and end users on board with the benefits of cloud computing.

There's also some cost-savings to be had. The DoD is hoping that some consolidation of applications and resources will happen along the way, reducing redundant resources (human and otherwise).

The DoD aims to be more efficient with their resources, too. Currently the Pentagon pegs their server utilization at less than 30 percent--one goal of the plan is to get that figure up to more than 60-70 percent.

By purchasing "'as-a-Service' from trusted cloud providers," and taking advantage of elastic cloud automation where resources can be assigned to tasks as needed, the DoD is hoping to situations where years are required to build data centers for new services and months are needed to increase capacity for existing tasks.

Of course, those trusted cloud providers will have to be carefully worked with in order to reduce security risks and insure that data and applications don't stray outside of the DoD's control.

The plan specifies that vendors will have to ensure that real-time use and data-consumption stats are visible to meet DoD standards. If a hybrid cloud configuration is used, and a provider does host DoD data off site, that provider will also have to plug their monitoring and response systems into the equivalent systems within the U.S. Cyber Command.

It's good to see the DoD getting flexible with their IT operations; it could lead to some cost savings down the road. This could also be a broader benefit to cloud computing in general, if you'll pardon the pun. As cloud vendors step up to meet the rigorous security standards of the Pentagon, those same vendors will be highly attractive to enterprise-level customers as well.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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