Why the Pentagon will move its data to the cloud
The Pentagon is accelerating an acquisition plan to migrate its defense networks to the cloud as part of a sweeping effort to modernize and streamline its data systems and better defend against cyberattacks, a DoD announcement said.
The initiative, launched last Fall by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, is now grounded in a specific, fast-paced acquisition plan to keep pace with fast-moving technological change.
"DoD is using a tailored acquisition process to acquire a modern enterprise cloud services solution that can support Unclassified, Secret, and Top Secret requirements. Known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud, the planned contracting action will be a full and open competition," a Pentagon statement said.
The Pentagon has released a Request for Information to industry and is planning an industry day March 2018 as a precursor to the planned contract awards.
Led by a recently established Cloud Executive Steering Group, cloud migration program leaders are now in the analysis and fact-finding phase of this process to determine how many contracts will best meet DoD's needs, officials said.
The acquisition effort is broken up into two distinct phases, according to DoD developers; phase one includes cloud acquisition and phase two "will work with offices throughout the department to build cloud strategies for requirements related to military operations and intelligence support," a Pentagon statement said.
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"Technologies in areas like data infrastructure and management, cybersecurity and machine learning are changing the character of war. Commercial companies are pioneering technologies in these areas and the pace of innovation is extremely rapid," Shanahan writes in the memo, released last Fall.
Cloud migration has received much attention in recent years, and this new effort strives to accelerate cloud development and add a specific, measurable structure to an otherwise broad-sweeping or more loosely configured effort. For instance, the Pentagon has emphasized a move toward broader use of Windows 10 in a move to quickly embrace more commercial systems and cloud systems.
However, many of the various acquisition efforts have been stovepiped or, by some estimations, in need of greater integration and interoperability. DOD's ongoing Joint Information Environment (JIE) and Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) efforts are emerging as efforts to address these challenges.
The Pentagon's Joint Regional Security Stacks will increasingly use cloud technology and move to more off-the-shelf technology, such as Windows 10, according to senior Pentagon IT officials.
JRSS is on track to reduce the physical footprint of servers and — that it will support cloud technology structures.
JRSS is also engineered to increase security and intrusion detection technologies. The security of the network is centralized into regional architectures instead of locally distributed systems at each military base, post, or camp, according to a previous statement from the Defense Information Systems Agency.
"Deploying JRSS enables the department to inspect data, retrieve threat and malware data on the network and troubleshoot, patch, protect and defend the network," a DISA statement said.
Shanahan's new program could bring nearer-term achievable metrics to the ongoing JIE initiative. At the same time, there is a chance it could also help accelerate the ongoing movement toward greater domestic and international data consolidation efforts already underway with JRSS.
A key element to cloud migration, considering that it involves movement toward more virtualization and a decreased hardware footprint, is that emerging software upgrades and programs can quite naturally have a faster and more ubiquitous impact across a range of data systems.
When it comes to data security and resilience against intruders and cyberattacks, the cloud could be described as consisting of a two-fold dynamic. In one sense, data consolidation through cloud architecture can potentially increase risk by lowering the number of entry points for intruders – yet it also affords an occasion to identify patterns across a wide swath of interconnected systems.
Furthermore, cloud technologies can facilitate standardized security protocols so that attempted breaches can be more quickly detected. Along similar lines, JIE proponents explain that although greater interoperability could increase vulnerabilities, various networks can be engineered so they can both share data while also leveraging routers, switches and IP protocol specifics to separate and secure networks as well.
An often-discussed phenomenon seems to inform Shanahan's push for faster cloud migration, namely that multi-year government developmental programs are, in many instances, generating technical systems which are potentially obsolete by the time they are completed. Commercial innovation, therefore, coupled with an open architecture framework, is intended to allow faster, wide-sweeping upgrades more consistent with the most current and impactful innovations.
"I am directing aggressive steps to establish a culture of experimentation, adaptation, and risk-taking," Shanahan's memo states.
The integrated DoD effort is closely aligned with various US fast-moving cloud efforts among the US military services.
Army cloud migration
DISA and the Army are working with industry to extend commercial cloud technology to mobile devices as part of a broad effort to both improve access to data and provide security for forces on the move.
Drawing upon hardened commercial cloud networking technology, soldiers, sailors or airmen using smartphones and tablets will have secure access to classified networks. By extension, a commercial cloud can enable secure networking such that smartphone applications themselves can be better protected, DISA leaders have explained.
As part of this broadly-scoped DOD effort, industry giants like Microsoft are working with the services to extend cloud-based security and connectivity to mobile devices.
The Army's Unified Capabilities (UC) program, for example, is an example of how this strategy can be implemented.
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The UC effort is based on an Army-ATT collaborative effort to leverage the commercial cloud to improve networking interoperability using voice, video, screen sharing and chat functions for one million service business leaders on both classified and unclassified networks.
"Unified Capabilities is one of the first commercial cloud-based solutions that will be delivered across the Army Enterprise," Sergio Alvarez, product lead, Enterprise Content Collaboration and Messaging, told Warrior Maven in an interview last Fall.
By using a commercial cloud, users will be able to draw upon software to access voice services from any Army-approved end user device — desktops, laptops, tablet computers, and smartphones.
Forward-deployed or dismounted soldiers will have an ability to connect and share combat-relevant data from farther distances, potentially beyond an otherwise limited network.
"There are many benefits to COTS — including saving money on initial investment, meeting IT requirements while avoiding costs, lowering maintenance investments and enabling cost-effective new upgrades," an Army statement said.
The service will also provide video conferences and desktop sharing services, as well as multi-user chat functions.
As is the case with desktop systems, the strategy for this kind of cloud execution is often described in terms of centralized control – decentralized execution.
When it comes to more traditional fixed locations, increased cloud networking and security at a central server location brings the added benefit of helping implementation and security for the ongoing Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) effort.
Navy analytics strategy
Fall 2017, the Navy unveiled a data analytics strategy document designed to accelerate IT modernization, consolidation of information, innovation and efforts to keep pace with commercial technological progress.
The "Navy Strategy for Data and Analytics Optimization," which incorporates faster network cloud migration, calls for cloud migration and rapid transformation of training, concepts, and policies designed to make data analytics faster and more efficient.
Recognizing that the pace of technological change is often faster within industry and commercial enterprises, the strategy is woven around the premise that new solutions, software updates or improvements in operating systems and data analysis often emerge quickly.
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With this in mind, the strategy also heavily emphasizes a growing need to look for open source solutions for expediting IT acquisition.
When embracing commercial innovation might not make sense for a government developmental IT effort, the strategy calls for increased collaboration with academia and industry.
"It is paramount that we become able to adapt faster to data-driven innovations, create new innovations and deploy those innovations," the strategy states.
The text of the strategy articulates a few goals, such as an ability to "predict and inventory the right data analytics to meet the demands of DON (Department of the Navy) data consumers and decision makers — and — deploy and operate innovative solutions with minimal time to market."
As a way to accelerate the key aims of the new strategic effort, the Navy's Chief Information Officer is establishing a new Data and Analytics Consortium to define emerging policies, share lessons learned and help establish best practices.