How cloud can improve intell community's analyses

The successful implementation of cloud computing could revolutionize the intelligence community’s analytical and big data processing capabilities, according to a white paper released by The Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA).

“However, before adopting a cloud architecture, organizations must fully articulate and assess how this technological approach will enable their organization’s mission capabilities, cost-effectiveness, and the security of their classified data and intelligence,” said Bob Gourley, INSA’s Cloud Computing Task Force Chair and principal author of the paper.

The paper, “Cloud Computing: Risks, Benefits and Mission Enhancement for the Intelligence Community,” provides critical analysis of current cloud adoption best practices, and discusses potential cost-savings, likely impacts on government organizational culture, potential deployment models and necessary security measures.


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To gather insight and understanding about the current cloud computing environment within the IC, the INSA Cloud Computing Task Force conducted more than 50 interviews with government and industry leaders.

Some of the findings include:

1. Decision makers in the IC are appropriately focusing on the business model implications of cloud computing. Cloud computing is not just a new technology, but a significant shift in the consumption of IT resources and allocation of IT funding.

2. Within the IC, the decision to adopt a cloud model is focused on mission enablement and must be determined on a case-by-case basis. The evaluation of cost savings must bear in mind costs over the complete lifecycle, rather than a periodic budget cycle.

3. Information security can be enhanced through a cloud computing approach, but only when it is built into the model’s design. If security is not part of the design, cloud computing architectures dramatically increase risk.

4. The type of cloud deployment model adopted will be determined by the sensitivity of data hosted.

5. Anyone looking to migrate to the cloud must consider impacts on organizational culture

6. Improvements to how agencies acquire services, software and hardware are strongly desired by most personnel involved in the implementation of cloud computing, and many believe that adopting a cloud solution can achieve these changes.

7. As standards for cloud computing emerge, thoughtful federal input can contribute to greater security and cost efficiencies. Any organization contemplating adopting a cloud architecture, including those within the IC, should include the ability to support multiple standards.

8. Lessons learned from the IT industry, the private sector, and academia must inform IC decision-making. Sharing lessons learned is essential to reducing risk.

“The cloud environment is not a silver bullet. It’s not like purchasing a single new technology or a stealth fighter jet that instantly allows you to achieve your priority mission objectives,” said Ellen McCarthy, president of INSA. “But the logic train and key steps outlined in this paper are foundational to the IC’s successful implementation.”

The paper was co-authored by Gourley, Kevin Jackson, general manager of cloud services with NJVC, and Maureen McGovern, president of KSB Solutions. Anyone interested in reading INSA’s “Cloud Computing: Risks, Benefits, and Mission Enhancement for the Intelligence Community,” can download a copy.

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