How CSRA plans to succeed on milCloud 2.0

DISA's milCloud 2.0 contract is a sharp turn away from its predecessor and puts more risk on prime CSRA. Here's how they plan to succeed.

The Defense Information Systems Agency’s award of its massive milCloud 2.0 contract to CSRA represents a shift away from its predecessor’s model of being government-owned and operated to one that puts the vendor largely in charge.

That is the biggest change from milCloud 1.0, CSRA executives told Washington Technology, and is one of several other new items in the new iteration they cite as examples of a larger change to how DISA and the Defense Department at-large runs the military’s cloud portfolio.

DISA awarded the eight-year, $498 million milCloud 2.0 contract in June to CSRA over four other bidders. The effort is intended to connect DOD with commercial cloud services on a pay-for-use model but also in a private deployment model.

Version one was based on a business model of “buy it by the month,” CEO Larry Prior said. In that model, the agencies “rent this room” without flexibility to adjust based on levels of storage or computing power.

“That’s not what cloud does. Cloud is all about consumption-based buying, where I’m going to buy a minute on (Microsoft) Azure, an hour on Amazon, that’s where you get your savings,” Prior said.

For milCloud 2.0, CSRA is “investing and shouldering a lot of the business risk associated with this model,” said Donald Robinson, vice president and chief technology officer for CSRA’s defense group.

“It eliminates the government having to do a massive upfront acquisition, and so in focusing on outcome-based and as-a-service models we re-shoulder the risk but provide an expandable service to the government,” he said.

Where CSRA sees opportunity to offer that flexibility is through its partnership network that makes the company the government’s main technology broker, or “Customer Zero.” This approach to the market and milCloud 2.0 helps both the government and industry “yearn for innovation,” Robinson said.

Along with CSRA’s seven main strategic partners, Robinson said its emerging technology partners in Silicon Valley and with venture capital firms help the company “understand what new great capabilities can help solve problems we see in the government mission.” The company’s strategic partners include Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP and ServiceNow.

Another item DISA sought to achieve with milCloud 2.0 is the ability to have the same resources and stacks available across both the classified and unclassified environments.

“Typically when we used to think of classified systems, there was no concept of having commercial parity on a classified network,” Robinson said. “We’re looking across the entire spectrum in DOD from public affairs websites all the way up to command-and-control systems and bringing the capabilities of elasticity, flexibility and availability.”

The security and acquisition-related aspects of milCloud 2.0 also are in line with several White House initiatives to modernize government IT that move forward the president’s cybersecurity executive order, Prior said.

Some questions DOD can answer with milCloud include how to “get rid of legacy stuff that’s broken, crippled and hasn’t had good hygiene related to cyber,” Prior said.

Another involves shared services that include back-office functions. Then DOD can figure out what it can do with funds it shifts away from IT, he added.

CSRA has so far started to plan the implementation of milCloud 2.0 at two sites in Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. and Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., said Damon Bramble, director and account manager in CSRA’s defense group.

“Right away we kick off the program and did site surveys, making sure the sites are set up for the infrastructure we’re going to put in,” Bramble said. “Then we work with DISA’s security team to give a lot more detail on what the solution is and how it’s going to work.”