DISA readies cloud computing RFPs for early 2012

The Defense Information Systems Agency is preparing a set of requests for proposals for a broad cloud computing initiatinve coming out of its Enterprise-wide Systems Engineering Solutions group.

The initiative is part of DISA's effort to meet federal mandates for IT efficiency. The agency recently issued a request for information to launch the cloud program. The RFI says DISA anticipates solicitations will be issued in the first quarter of 2012.

DISA's goal is to develop the framework, architecture and guidance necessary to move shared DOD services in IT into an interoperable cloud environment, according to DISA. But agency officials recognize that it could be a difficult and complex ascent.

“DOD is at the forefront of the federal cloud evolution. The department’s IT vision is to adopt cloud computing to acquire and operate efficient and agile IT infrastructure,” said Dr. Gerald Doyle, principle director of enterprise engineering at DISA. “However, DOD is also facing significant challenges that may not be seen in other federal agencies or in the private industry, such as the support of multiple security levels and the use of cloud services by warfighters in the tactical environment characterized as disconnected, intermittent connectivity and low bandwidth.”

Doyle said the current RFI and upcoming request for proposals will seek an implementation strategy that focuses on the challenges of theater environment and provides faster, interoperable services for deployed troops.

The familiar issue of security also presents a hurdle for DISA and EWSE, which Doyle said takes particular priority for DOD as it transitions mission-critical data and services to the cloud model.

“Cloud computing is a new and inherently complex undertaking. This elevated complexity gives rise to the possibility that not all the security risks associated with the public cloud are well established,” Doyle said.

To steel against those risks, DISA will initially host a private, on-premise DOD community cloud through its computing services directorate, which will provide the same level of security as current hosted services.

Beyond the security concerns and the inevitable tough road DOD faces in its transition, EWSE strategy is looking toward the future. But Doyle noted that the agency’s efforts must take into account the immature nature of a lot of the cloud services it’s centered on – an issue DISA must carefully balance as its engineers plan its offerings, design the architecture and build the IT infrastructure.

“The concepts of infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and software as a service are all relatively new and while their maturity is improving over time, there is a long way to go,” Doyle said. “The DOD cloud computing technical framework and architecture to be developed here will establish the enterprise-wide solution architecture…and improve interoperability of services developed in the future. It will mature the state-of-the-art.”

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