Department Seeks Balanced ‘Cloud’ Computing Solution

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 7, 2011 — Defense Depart­ment offi­cials are look­ing to bal­ance effi­cien­cy, effec­tive­ness and secu­ri­ty while mov­ing away from its decen­tral­ized net­work of com­put­er servers and data cen­ters and into “cloud” com­put­ing, DOD’s deputy chief infor­ma­tion offi­cer said today.

“We must bal­ance all three,” said Robert J. Carey, who is also the deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for infor­ma­tion man­age­ment, inte­gra­tion and tech­nol­o­gy. “We have to serve the infor­ma­tion needs of our warfight­ers, as well as the peo­ple back here in the ivory tow­ers.”

Carey, who is also�a Naval Reserve captain,�spoke at Defense Sys­tems Sum­mit 2011, an infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy con­fer­ence held here. He told the audi­ence, made up large­ly of defense con­trac­tors, that bud­get restric­tions and the need for bet­ter effi­cien­cy is dri­ving the depart­ment and mil­i­tary ser­vices to move toward cloud com­put­ing, which pro­vides an Inter­net-based forum for infor­ma­tion to be pooled among many users.

The Fed­er­al CIO Coun­cil has charged the gov­ern­ment with lever­ag­ing cloud com­put­ing ser­vices to reduce costs and pro­vide greater effi­cien­cies, accord­ing to the U.S. Chief Infor­ma­tion Office. Cloud com­put­ing allows cus­tomers to scale capac­i­ty on demand and great­ly reduces ener­gy con­sump­tion, the U.S. CIO web­site says.

“Stovepipe solu­tions … can­not be afford­ed any more,” Carey said. “That is not going to hap­pen.”

He added, “We are hack­ing through some of the chal­lenges of employ­ing this tech­nol­o­gy.”

Some of those chal­lenges, he said, are how to oper­ate secure­ly in a com­mer­cial, rather than a gov­ern­ment, set­ting; giv­ing U.S. Cyber Com­mand the abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy and respond to emer­gen­cies; and deter­min­ing who man­ages the data in real time.

The depart­ment has many cloud-com­put­er pilot pro­grams, and has ramped up its stan­dard­iza­tion and con­sol­i­da­tion of its com­put­er infra­struc­ture, such as servers, data cen­ters and secu­ri­ty archi­tec­ture, Carey said. The department’s data cen­ters are being used at less than 15 per­cent of capac­i­ty, he not­ed.

Offi­cials are deter­min­ing which infor­ma­tion, based on impor­tance and secu­ri­ty needs, should be con­sol­i­dat­ed in core data cen­ters, Carey said. The depart­ment plans to release ini­tial guid­ance this fall on a strat­e­gy to max­i­mize data cen­ters at 75 per­cent capac­i­ty, he said.

The mil­i­tary ser­vices have led the con­sol­i­da­tion effort, he added, and the depart­ment will fol­low.

“We’re not inter­est­ed in cre­at­ing new stan­dards and mak­ing [the ser­vices] change,” Carey said. Rather, he added, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials will use the ser­vices’ best prac­tices to for­mu­late imple­men­ta­tion through­out the Defense Depart­ment.

“If some­one has cracked the code, we’re all over it,” he said, not­ing that oth­er agen­cies such as the Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion have had “tremen­dous suc­cess­es, but also some chal­lenges” in con­vert­ing to cloud com­put­ing.

A typ­i­cal mil­i­tary instal­la­tion may serve 50,000 users, Carey told the audi­ence. “That makes our world com­plex,” he said, “and every­thing needs to be thought through well.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)