Cloud Computing Efforts at the Other Defense Agencies

Published: November 06, 2013

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Agencies across the Department of Defense are using cloud computing for a variety of purposes, making the DoD a cloud “hot spot” in the federal government. This conclusion runs counter to the commonly held perception that DoD is lagging when it comes to cloud adoption. This post examines adoption trends across the Defense Agencies in an effort to provide insight into where the DoD’s use of cloud solutions is heading next.

In last week’s post I pointed out that three federal departments in particular could be called cloud “hot spots.”  These departments were Defense (DoD), Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) and the definition of a “hot spot” was based on the number of cloud efforts, procured, planned, or otherwise, that could be found and verified.  From the handful of reader comments I’ve received, it seems that many people have a hard time believing the DoD is a cloud hot spot.  They simply aren’t seeing the contracts or hearing much about the efforts.  When I stepped back to look at the data it surprised me too!  In this week’s post I’ll take a closer look at cloud-use trends across the Other Defense Agencies in an effort to provide insight into the topline numbers.  In next week’s post I’ll do the same for the Armed Services.

The table below shows verified cloud efforts from fiscal 2009 through fiscal 2013.  Note that the abortive Large Data Object Storage (LDOS) effort is listed here.  I’ve included it in this list because it and other efforts that may not have turned into acquisitions illustrate areas of need, regardless of whether or not they were procured.  In addition to providing the agency and project/effort name, I’ve also included the function/purpose of the effort in order to give insight into how these agencies are using cloud-based solutions.  The functional categories were determined based on available information.  Sometimes multiple functions could have applied.  In these cases the predominant intended purpose behind the effort was selected.  When detailed information was not available a function was chosen based on whatever data was available.

Based on the data the following cloud adoption trends at the Other Defense Agencies become visible:

  • Cyber Security – Five (16%) of the projects/efforts listed are related in some way to cyber security.  In other words, many Defense Agencies have identified the protection of data as a critical need that they are interested in using cloud for.  Similarly, these agencies want to develop greater understanding of how data in cloud environments is protected.
  • System Development – Four (13%) of the projects/efforts listed are related to the development of cloud systems.  This kind of work can entail either the enabling of a current system for the cloud or the design/architecting of a new cloud-based system to fulfill a need or provide a capability.
  • Data Center Services (Infrastructure) – Three (10%) of the projects/efforts listed are related to providing infrastructure.  In general this means computing infrastructure.  Two storage efforts – ESS II and the LDOS Storage project – are broken out separately, but these efforts too could be classified as IT infrastructure.  Two other efforts for “Cloud Hardware” and “Communications Infrastructure” could also be put in the category of “infrastructure.”  Doing so brings the total number of IT infrastructure related cloud projects/efforts to seven, or 23%.

When looking at the trends in the data we see that the DoD is leaning decisively toward using cloud computing to supplement its IT infrastructure.  Customers at the ODAs are also interested in cloud-based cyber security solutions and in vendor assistance cloud enabling systems.  Finally, there are a few efforts related to the creation of cloud-based testing and software development environments.  I believe these latter uses of cloud will also continue to proliferate across the DoD as Defense customers look for ways to streamline application development and reduce costs before apps are deployed.