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Emerging Trends in Defense Cloud Computing for FY 2015

Published: October 29, 2014

USAFARMYCloud ComputingDEFENSEDISANAVY

After years of delay the Department of Defense finally appears to be developing into a hotbed of activity related to the use of commercial cloud computing solutions. Procurement activity is being focused in cloud brokerages in the Army, Navy, and DISA, while research and development efforts are being pursued by DoD research facilities like the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Lastly, DISA is exploring new ways to utilize commercial cloud solutions in both on-premise and containerized forms.

Interesting developments have abounded in defense cloud computing within the last few weeks.  These developments promise to provide industry partners with multiple business opportunities in the coming year and beyond.  Here is some of what to expect in fiscal 2015, in case any of these trends have not pinged your radar yet.

To begin with, acting DoD CIO Terry Halverson's recent decision to give the Military Departments greater authority to acquire commercial cloud solutions should open the door to faster defense cloud adoption. In the near term I would expect this change of direction to generate some chaos as the MILDEPS piece together cloud adoption strategies.  Remember, since fiscal 2012 the Military Departments and other DoD components have been instructed to follow the lead of the Defense Information Systems Agency when it comes to using commercial cloud solutions.  Presumably this directive has had the effect of slowing the evolution of market research and understanding among the MILDEPs as it pertains to cloud computing.  MILDEP personnel and commanders therefore probably have some ground to make up.  They will do this in 2015.  Long term, the decision to decentralize cloud procurement in DoD should translate into much greater business opportunities across the department.

Cloud activity at DoD is currently taking place on many levels, but three areas in particular bear watching:

Cloud Brokerages – A small handful of cloud brokerages have been stood up across the DoD so far.  I suggest vendors focus on brokers because they are where the bulk of cloud procurement activity is likely to take place.  The two brokerages operating in the MILDEPs are at the Army’s Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and at the Navy’s SPAWAR Atlantic.  DISA has of course also established a cloud brokerage.  Other DoD components and the Air Force have not publicly stated their cloud strategies, suggesting that for the time being they will work with DISA’s brokerage.  How this plays out remains to be seen.  For its part, Army has suggested EIS’ brokerage will be the central organization in Army for determining the migration of apps to commercial clouds.  EIS will act as the procurement activity with Army Network Enterprise Technology Command overseeing the technical work.  Keeping track of activity at PEO EIS and NETCOM will be critical.  Activity at SPAWAR Atlantic is also increasing but the Navy’s cloud efforts appear to be more decentralized than Army.  Therefore, keep a close eye on SPAWAR, but cast a wider net across Navy too.

Cloud Tactical Use – Operationalizing the cloud for mission purposes and use on the battlefield continues to be the DoD’s biggest challenge.  Army work in this area continues to be focused in the Distributed Common Ground System – Army (DCGS-A) program, while the Navy is conducting research and development on a tactical cloud system for big data.  This work is being done at the Office of Naval Research.  To my knowledge, Air Force tactical/mission cloud efforts are also currently centered on research and development work being directed by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Cloud Service Provider Integration – Despite its changed role, DISA continues to pursue several cloud initiatives, making it a center of cloud activity at the DoD.  For example, the agency is investigating ways to utilize commercial cloud software and infrastructure.  Recent market research reveals the models DISA is interested in are either locating commercial hardware in DoD data centers and/or using containerized commercial clouds.  Both avenues should provide business opportunity given DoD security demands can be met and vendors can develop applicable solutions.

For the most detailed information and data on the status of the federal cloud computing market see FIA’s new report, Federal Update: Cloud, Data Center, Big Data, and Mobility, 2014-2019.