Takeaways from the Army’s July 2015 Cloud Strategy Update

Published: August 05, 2015

ARMYCloud ComputingDEFENSE

New guidelines from the Army’s Chief Information Officer/G-6 outline rules of engagement for Commands using commercial cloud providers. Here are four important takeaways for industry.

At the end of July, the Army Chief Information Officer/G-6 published an updated set of guidelines for the migration of Army applications to commercial cloud services providers. The release of these guidelines has implications for cloud vendors seeking to do work with the Army, so today’s post will take a look at some of the things industry should know about them.

Anyone who has followed the Army’s slow march toward the cloud knows that progress has been laborious. Describing it as the technology equivalent of a ten-mile hump with 45 pounds of gear in your rucksack probably wouldn’t be far off the mark. There have been many stops and starts along the way too, even though the path forward has been clear for the Army since at least FY 2012 (if not earlier). That path is, in no particular order, inventorying applications for sustainment, migration, or sunset, consolidating data centers, awaiting the finalization of DoD’s cloud security requirements, developing a formal process for migration, and building out network infrastructure.

All of these steps are necessary and important parts of the process, but building out the network infrastructure is probably the most critical piece of the puzzle thus far. Army camps, posts, and stations are bandwidth challenged, meaning the Army cannot move ahead with an enterprise capabilities strategy without improving the infrastructure for delivering those capabilities. This is, of course, the rationale for the installation of multi-protocol label switching gear over the last several fiscal years. The MPLS project, while incomplete, appears to be reaching critical mass, meaning that Army Commands can now turn their attention to the application rationalization portion of the process. Hence the release of the updated guidance. The CIO/G-6 is ready for the next phase of Army’s adoption of cloud computing and wants to ensure that the process goes by the book.

The most important takeaways from that book are as follows:

First, Army Commands are where a majority of the action will be taking place. Commands are responsible for cataloging their applications and for selecting which of these they will either kill, migrate, or modernize. The implication of this for cloud vendors is that to know what’s really happening on the ground level, they will need to be active at the Army Commands. Patent leather shoes on the ground, so to speak, are the key to developing business here.

Second, last summer the CIO/G-6’s cloud strategy established an Army Application Migration Business Office (AAMBO) to act as cloud broker and single point of contact for the Commands seeking to move applications to the cloud. Once Commands have identified the apps they want to move and have completed the required Cost Benefit Analysis, they work with the AAMBO to procure the cloud provider they want to use. The AAMBO is located in the office of the Project Director, Enterprise Services, at Army Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Vendors will want to keep their finger on the pulse of what is happening at PD ES in order to have the best enterprise-wide understanding of the Army’s progress toward the cloud.

Third, as the acquisition authority for cloud services procurement, the AAMBO selects the contracts and contract vehicles that will be used to fulfill Army customer cloud requirements. The AAMBO says it has already identified a number of contract vehicles it can use until the award of the Army Cloud Hosting Contract Vehicle (CHCV). Given that the AAMBO just held an industry day related to the ACHCV, it is likely the CHCV contracts will not be awarded until the end of FY 2016, or even Q1 of FY 2017. Until then, the AAMBO is likely to use contracts like ITES-2S, RS3 (once it is awarded) and GSA’s Alliant, among others. As another breadcrumb trail, I also offer the graphic below, which shows the procurement methods that the Army has been using to date for cloud acquisitions.

Once the CHCV contracts are awarded, expect most, if not all of the Army’s cloud procurement dollars to flow through it, so securing a spot on the vehicle is a must-win for cloud vendors.

Fourth, there are many systems that the CIO/G6 deems ineligible for migration to commercial clouds, no matter what the approved DoD data impact level may be. These include all of the Army’s Enterprise Resource Planning systems, all Army Medical Command enterprise applications, all systems that control installation industrial controls (i.e., fuel, water, electricity, etc.), weapons systems, and systems that are critical to military intelligence. What systems does this leave as eligible for the cloud? The most likely candidates are training, human resources, logistics and supply, collaboration platforms, production and testing environments, etc.

Final Thoughts

The new guidance brings the Army a step closer to being able to use commercial cloud computing more extensively. This is a welcome evolution for industry. Expectations of green fields should be tempered, however, by some hard realities when it comes to cloud computing use by Army Commands. In the long-term, procurement will be funneled to a relatively small number of CHCV contract holders, which will limit the business opportunity. In addition, the Army continues to voice intent to use DISA-provided enterprise services for many basic business functions, including email (which will eventually migrate to a commercial provider for all DoD), SharePoint, Enterprise Directory, and Unified Communications. Given this, and the fact that the Army continues to collapse business systems into its ERPs, which will be hosted in the milCloud, one wonders just how many systems will be left to migrate to commercial cloud providers.