The DOD’s OCONUS Cloud Strategy: Implications for Industry

Published: June 23, 2021

Federal Market AnalysisCloud ComputingDEFENSEInformation TechnologyPolicy and Legislation

DOD wants to expand its cloud capabilities worldwide.

Key Takeaways

  • DOD intends to build out cloud infrastructure globally.
  • Related business opportunities will appear for work at defense facilities and secured commercial locations.
  • Requirements will span all IT segments, providing software, hardware, services, and outsourcing opportunities.

Published publicly at the end of May 2021, the new Department of Defense’s Outside of the Continental United States (OCONUS) Cloud Computing Strategy outlines what the department believes it needs in order to develop and provide cloud-based capabilities to military personnel operating at the so-called “tactical edge.” Providing cloud services at the edge presents a host of challenges for the DOD revolving around intermittent connectivity, infrastructure holes, and cybersecurity. The DOD’s new strategy discusses these subjects in relation to the planned deployment of cloud capabilities, providing a few hints about the kind of investments that will be needed to make the department’s offshore cloud vision a reality.

The new strategy makes clear that “delivering cloud innovation to the tactical edge requires modernization within all layers of the infrastructure.” To the DOD this means that “OCONUS transport and network infrastructure must be capable of forward deploying enough data to support a disconnected user or a user at the tactical edge, and once communications allow, seamlessly re-integrating those users and their data into the broader enterprise, while not revealing their location to adversary forces.” To achieve this goal, the DOD will

  • Modernize In-Theater Communications Infrastructure
  • Secure Cloud Connections Through OCONUS Cloud Access Points
  • Leverage State-of-The-Art Technologies to Connect Denied, Disconnected, Intermittent, or Limited (D-DIL) Environments
  • Enable Access to Information From Multiple Devices and Data Sources

Industry Implications

Each step outlined by the DOD will require that the department increases its spending in the following information technology segments

IT Hardware. Up-to-date network gear will be needed for both wired and wireless communications, including, or perhaps especially, satellite communications. The latter implies in turn investment in new or additional ground terminals. New server farms and remotely-located data centers will also be required. A portion of these will be built on premise at DOD facilities, such as the Army’s Camp Humphreys in South Korea. Others will be provided by commercial partners at their own secured facilities. Still more mobile (containerized) data centers will need to be purchased and built for use by units in the field.

IT Software. Securing cloud connections will require that the DOD invests more in software-based cloud gateways and access points sometimes called Cloud Access Security Brokers. In addition, the entire structure of cloud-connected networks may need to be engineered to place that network on a software-defined basis. These capabilities create flexible, secure, virtual tunnels through which data can flow. As DOD’s network architecture evolves toward a Zero Trust architecture it also means the DOD will require identity and access management capabilities and continuous monitoring. Lastly, the DOD calls out artificial intelligence and machine learning specifically as requirements to automate security.

IT Services. Cloud services provided by commercial partners are only the tip of the iceberg. A significant level of systems engineering and IT development and design services will be required to build networks optimally suited to cloud services, i.e., high throughput, fiber optic based, and 5G enabled. Operations and maintenance services will then be needed to maintain the networks developed for DOD’s cloud use along with the training of personnel.

The DOD’s OCONUS strategy makes clear that the department intends to invest significant amounts of money into creating connections and an architecture for defense personnel and allies to use cloud services effectively in the field.