Cloud ramps up at DOD—Here’s what you need to know

cloud, DODBy Stephanie Meloni, consultant, and Mark Wisinger, senior analyst

The Department of Defense is committed to speeding up cloud adoption in 2018 and beyond, and many DOD agencies are exploring their own capabilities and plans as they embark on their journey to the commercial cloud.

But with so many moving parts, it’s hard to follow how cloud will actually take shape at the department. We recently peeled back the layers of DOD’s cloud strategy in a webinar so that companies know how to talk to their defense clients about their biggest challenges and potential solutions.

Here’s a preview of what we covered in the webinar:

At the DOD top-level, the Cloud Executive Steering Group is evaluating how the department can use the cloud in tactical environments and possibly procure a cloud service solution called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure—though few specifics have emerged from the office.

Separate from this effort, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is ahead of schedule when it comes to milCloud 2.0. The agency, along with CSRA (recently acquired by GDIT), which won this contract in June, will launch the milCloud 2.0 infrastructure this February. This will let DOD customers run their infrastructure from a commercial cloud environment.

The demand for cloud is clearly there—benefits include improved security and increased elasticity, which will lead to cost savings. Many DOD agencies are milCloud customers but may be forging their own plans for special projects.

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has a larger IT budget than most of the purple agencies, and cyber and cloud are at the top of its priority list. The agency has been using milCloud as its platform of service, functioning as the front end for AWS, Azure, Oracle, Salesforce, Service Now, SAP, Cisco and other cloud environments. DLA is one agency that seems to be committed to using cloud service providers beyond AWS in a commercial environment.

DLA also uses Army, SPAWAR and Defense Media for cloud services, so you will want to be aware of these environments when speaking to DLA customers. The agency is also looking at software-as-a-service more and more moving forward, so when speaking to your customers about any new applications, note that it will need to play ball with as many cloud environments as possible.

Another DOD organization that’s making strides with the cloud is U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), which is the largest of the COCOMs aside from CYBERCOM. So far, TRANSCOM has been more entrenched in AWS’ cloud environment and has even been working with Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) to pilot cloud migration of its logistical apps to the AWS SECRET environment. Security has historically been the biggest hold up for DOD’s cloud efforts, so cybersecurity will continue to be at the forefront when it comes to cloud transitions.

Many agencies (including TRANSCOM’s DIUx initiative) have also started looking at ways to procure products and solutions outside the traditional acquisition process—via OTAs (Other Transactional Authority). OTAs help agencies modernize IT systems and infrastructure, especially when it comes to cloud and cybersecurity. DISA also has been using an OTA where it can. Vendors should become a part of the OTA by forming partnerships with academia, small business and non-traditional defense contractors.

Understanding your customers’ security and infrastructure challenges will be important in any future conversations. Each cloud model and service provider will have its own unique problems, and you need to understand these challenges to be successful in helping them accomplish their mission. As more data and applications migrate to the cloud, vendors selling any type of solution will need to be aware of their cloud environments.

For more on DOD’s cloud plans, as well as key cybersecurity initiatives at DISA, DLA and TRANSCOM, view our on-demand webinar.

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