One-stop cloud marketplace open for feds
- By Rutrell Yasin
- Sep 18, 2012
NJVC has unveiled a multi-cloud broker service for the federal government that will let agencies try, design and price an array of services from cloud providers before spending money and committing to large-scale migration.
The Cloudcuity Management Portal lets agencies compare key differences and features among cloud service providers, such as security, service-level agreements and cost, according to Kevin Jackson, vice president and general manager for cloud services with NJVC. NJVC provides IT consulting and managed services to government agencies, particularly those in the defense and intelligence arena.
By testing applications for suitability in the cloud, the typical costs and inefficiencies associated with migrating untested applications to the cloud can be alleviated, Jackson said.
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The underlying technology behind the Cloudcuity Management Portal is a unified cloud lifecycle management platform, cloudMatrix, developed by Gravitant. CloudMatrix has already been applied successfully by the Texas in its multi-year cloud computing pilot project. Through the use of a self-service, virtual private cloud portal, four Texas agencies were able to provision, manage and support every phase of their cloud services from a marketplace of providers.
The Cloudcuity portal includes tools that users can leverage to determine if their application workloads are ready for the cloud, Jackson noted. Some applications such as collaboration and customer relationship management systems might be easier to migrate to the cloud compared to an enterprise resource management system, Jackson explained.
For instance, using a capability called Cloud Screen, users can put in information about their IT environments, such as how many users they have, what types of technology are they using (IBM AIX, Microsoft Windows or Linux) or whether they are licensing physical or virtual machines. The results are displayed in a chart to help them determine the readiness of their applications.
NJVC is a broker , not a cloud services provider, so it is important to give agencies tools with compatible and consistent metrics to let users compare services, Jackson said. An electronic services catalog allows users to select and design a virtual data center in which they can simulate the cost of a particular cloud service per month.
“They can do that before they put in one dime into the portal,” Jackson said. The Cloudcuity portal has been in limited pilot in the federal sector.
Interest in providing cloud brokerage services to the government is gaining momentum. The General Services Administration extended a deadline for industry to submit information on cloud brokerage services from Aug. 17 to Sept. 7 after receiving a huge response from industry.
The Defense Department is planning to use the Defense Information Systems Agency as its cloud broker. In addition to the GSA, the Health and Human Services Department has requested information about the cloud broker concept, Jackson said.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has become the cloud broker for the lab itself because the concept of cloud brokerages is still maturing, Khawaja Shams, manager of data services for tactical operations at NASA JPL, told GCN in a recent interview.
“One of the problems of cloud brokers, in my opinion, is that if you go with a cloud broker, you are forced to pick the least common denominator across all the vendors they are supporting,” he said. “If a particular vendor comes out with a service that only one vendor has, it is difficult for cloud brokers to kind of encapsulate that complexity,” Shams said.
Officials with Verizon Enterprise Solutions expressed the same sentiments to 1105 Media Government Information Group editors during a tour of the company’s Terremark secure data center in Culpeper, VA, where many government applications are hosted.
There are still many questions that remain to be answered about the brokerage model, said Susan Zeleniak, senior vice president of public sector markets with Verizon Enterprise Solutions, which owns Terremark, a provider of infrastructure-as-a service offerings.
“We have a broad spectrum of services,” Zeleniak said, noting that it would be difficult to compare them with other cloud service providers’ offerings. Plus, it is still not clear who the customers will be paying, the broker or the cloud provider, Zeleniak noted.
As a broker, NJVC has worked out agreements with each cloud service provider, so the agencies won’t have to, Jackson said. There are three components to how NJVC will charge users for their monthly subscriptions. But basically, if a cloud service provider is charging a certain amount for an hour of computing resources or for a gigabyte of storage per month, the user will pay the same amount through the Cloudcuity portal.
But there are value-added services such as monitoring of multiple service providers’ service level agreements or being able to quickly switch providers if one fails to meet its SLA that an agency dealing with a single cloud provider wouldn’t have access to, Jackson noted.
The cloud providers currently offering their services through the Cloudcuity Management Portal are Amazon, GoGrid, Savvis and Terremark. Amazon GovCloud is expected to be available through the portal by mid-October. NJVC and Gravitant also are evaluating a number of other cloud providers for future integration in the portal.
Agencies have access to Terremark’s cloud for commercial users not Terremark’s government cloud, Jackson said. NJVC is negotiating with Terremark on offering its government cloud via the portal. However, agencies can still use the Terremark cloud for the commercial sector because it is compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act low-level security. FISMA low-level security allows agencies to put public-facing websites in the cloud. NJVC is working to offer FISMA low, moderate and high- level security across multiple cloud service providers via the portal, Jackson noted.
NJVC is initially offering infrastructure-as-a-service in which agencies can order virtual servers and computing resources such as storage. Future plans include the offering of platform-as-a-service, which offers cloud-based services for application development, design and testing; software-as-a-service, in which software and associated data are provided on-demand; and geospatial data-as-a-service.
Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.