DoD’s Chief Information Officer Discusses the Cloud

FCB recently sent out a questionnaire about cloud computing. The following are answers, provided via email, from John J. Shea, (SES) Assistant Secretary of Defense (Networks & Information Integration) DoD Chief Information Officer.

Federal Cloud Blog: Does your agency/organization used shared services in IT? If so please describe.

John Shea: With regards to Services defined by a Service Oriented Architecture – Enterprise (SOA – SOE), the department has most definitely been sharing Services as demonstrated by DISA’s Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) program. One example is their highly successful GIG Content Delivery Service (GCDS) which uses Akamai technology, to provide intelligent routing and forward deployed caching of web-based content. This Service achieves up to 30 times better user performance while offloading up to 90% of the “reach-back” hits to DISA data center infrastructure.

FCB: If you do use shared services, what was your motivation? Have the results been what you expected? What has not gone as well as you’d expected.

JS: In terms of motivation, that’s a simple question to answer. Industry has proven the Services construct to be superior method of delivering capability (in the form of an information advantage). Reuse, shared, scalable, extensible are applicable attributes when describing the Service construct.

The results within the DoD framework have been somewhat slower to realize due in part to the complexity of our applications, the interdependency of the applications and the criticality of associated command and control requirements. However, the maturity of NCES is helping to overcome these issues.

FCB: Now let’s talk about cloud computing. We’ll define it as having a third party host your applications and storage, accessible via the internet in a business model in which you pay. Are you investigating, piloting, using or not considering moving to the cloud? Are you currently doing more than one of these things.

JS: We are investigating and piloting.

When it comes to Cloud Computing, it’s important to understand that it is a “disruptive technology” that requires a new foundation of knowledge to understand. With that said, we are just now beginning to understand this next-generation phenomena.

Additionally, Cloud Computing is still in the “hyper-buzz” phase and still requires several years of maturity before we can adopt in earnest. This doesn’t mean that we should keep our heads in the sand…. just the contrary. When Amazon rolled out their highly successful Amazon Web Services (AWS) it was only done after a five-year planning process.

In terms of investigation, we are actively participating on the Federal Cloud Computing Working Group for early adoption guidance (policy and standards). The work by this WG (directed by Mr. Vivek Kundra and led by the Federal CIO Council) is ground breaking and will set the course for the entire federal government.

Right now, we are not looking at a 3rd party hosting model for the department, but rather planning to utilize DISA’s Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE) as our primary provider of Cloud Computing Services (Infrastructure, Software and Platform as a Services).

RACE will be coming online early in 2010.

FCB: If you are investigating, piloting or using, which services are part of your efforts: storage, e-mail, other communications (such as instant messaging), office productivity applications, agency-specific applications?

JS: All the above.

RACE Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will deliver an “elastic” provisioning of virtualized Certified and Accredited IT hardware components (storage, processing stacks, etc).

Enterprise applications (like E-Mail) and mission specific applications will operate in a multi-tenant environment.

RACE will be coming online early in 2010.

FCB: Please describe your service level agreement, for example, what is required in terms of up time, how fast new users are provisioned, security. That is, what are you getting contractually?

JS: We are just now starting to look at Cloud Computing SLA’s.

FCB: Describe how you pay for cloud services. For example, per user? Per hour agency wide? Is there an initial startup fee for the agency? For each user as he or she is added?

JS: There are a couple of pay-for-service models we are looking at. RACE is looking at offering a “pay only for what you need, month-to-month with no annual maintenance fee” model.

Others will be considered as we complete further investigation and learn as we grow.

FCB: Is your cloud coming from a commercial entity, another agency, or your own agency?

JS: Right now, DISA is our primary Cloud Computing provider.

FCB: Were there any unexpected issues that arose when you initialized your cloud arrangement? If so, please describe it/them.

JS: We are just now in the planning phase for our Cloud Computing Pilots.

FCB: Who (by position, not individual) was part of the decision to move to the cloud model?

JS: Within the Department, the decision to move to a “cloud model” has been an evolutionary process directed by the ASD NII/DoD-CIO.

FCB: Please describe the non-technical issues you had to work through for cloud. For example, agency culture, skepticism from the technology shop or other contractors.

JS: It’s too early to say; however, we feel the biggest barrier will be culture and not technology.

Our DoD Acquisition process for IT could — and I emphasize could — also be a factor.

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