cloud data (CoreDESIGN/Shutterstock.com)

Standing up cArmy, the foundation for cloud services

Much has happened in nine months since the Army's enterprise cloud office was established: a new secure cloud environment, a cloud solutions team, a hiring spree, and the migration of the Army's financial enterprise system that handles $1 million a day.

In a recent interview Paul Puckett III, director of the Army’s Enterprise Cloud Management Office (ECMO), talked about the Army's cloud priorities and what lessons it’s already learned from the pandemic. Here's what he had to say:

The interview was edited and condensed for clarity and length.

What have you been up to this year?

PUCKETT: Looking back over the last seven to eight months since we've existed, we've seen movement across each one of these key things: first off is starting to see ourselves, to see precisely where these 160-plus applications residing in the cloud today are deployed, who's responsible for it, what mission it's enabling. Starting to see ourselves and where we've made those investments led to a partnership between the ECMO and the Army Analytics Group to stand up, what is "cArmy," and that is our foundation of common secure cloud services that aligns to the [secure cloud computing architecture by the Defense Information Systems Agency]. This is a centrally resourced, funded and provided service for the Army.

And what we've been able to do over the last seven months is start to migrate some strategic initiatives into that secure footprint. We've been trying to train and equip the Army in the true value of what online on-demand compute and storage enables and what a secure foundation enables. Really getting after those stovepipes of data and redesigning them to enable self-service for those datasets and creating more of that dynamic, resilient architecture that can handle the ad hoc nature of how we need to access data today, leveraging cloud computing.

In addition to cArmy, we started up a cloud solutions team that gets after that refactoring and replatforming, really redesigning the Army architecture leveraging cloud computing. Now with the secure foundation, with a framework for how we optimize and modernize our applications, we've also leaned in, and we're investing in providing the common tools for modern software development. And so we've also stood up a team called CReATE, the Coding Repository and Transformation Environment. We see across the DOD, this move towards bringing together developers and security teams and operator teams into a DevSecOps model. And typically that's enabled by an ecosystem of modern software development. So we've stood up to the CReATE team within the cArmy environment.

How has COVID affected those initiatives so far?

A lot of the Army's [past] cloud adoption was driven by the data center closure and optimization effort and so we saw a lot of people just simply rehosting capabilities, lifting and shifting capabilities to the cloud. I think COVID helped the Army identify which of those systems were designed for a fixed on-premises architecture, which were designed for a more dynamic, ad hoc world that allows for secure access at home or in the building or globally.

COVID was a true realization of which systems were designed with a specific architecture in mind and then if they wanted to change them, I think, it allowed the Army to realize where we've been writing in our contracts the inability to adapt and change these architectures. I think it helped the Army realize that there's a modernization effort and the way that we write our contracts, they need to be just as flexible and as resilient as the IT technology that we field.

What is the Army doing around that to prepare for JEDI or a JEDI-like capability this year should it come out?

First what we're doing is collapsing from an infrastructure architecture perspective into cArmy -- those kinds of [Secure Cloud Computing Architecture (SCCA)]  components, so that's really step one. Step two is we've gotten our hooks into almost all of our cloud accounts today from a financial management perspective, and we're starting to see how we're using cloud resources effectively and see this only feeding and enabling how we consume JEDI at enterprise scale -- our ability to ensure that we're estimating and consuming precisely what we need in order to work, deliver on our mission and getting the greatest return on investment.

Do you have a list of programs that you can speak to that would be like the first to go in?

We're in the midst of a migration, modernization effort around our enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. We were just in the midst of transitioning the General Fund Enterprise Business Systems (GFEBS) over to cArmy. That's the big-name initiative, but we've got a number of initiatives across the Army as well for modernizing Human Resources Command as well, and we anticipate more coming through.

But our primary focus this year in FY20 has been setting the conditions for this enterprise value. And then our focus in FY21 is driving on priorities where FY22 feeds into the enterprise skill of the Army and cloud adoption. And so we're really focused on ensuring that our processes are effective, that they're as streamlined as they can possibly be, and that we're applying those lessons learned quickly and improving those processes.

GFEBS is helping us tease out improvements in our operational processes that we can make as well as the hosting environment itself. Because the vision in order for us to handle the enterprise scale of the Army, we've got to be leveraging a self-service model for the actual consumption provisioning of secure Army services in the cloud. What we want to do is ensure that we're only using people where we absolutely need to for those manual touch point interactions.

What are your key goals and milestones for the rest of FY20 and the top of FY21? And particularly if it folds in at all, how is Joint All Domain Command and Control going to be a part of that?

Teasing out FY20 some of the critical near term stepping stones to collapse and consolidate investments that we've already made in the cloud. And 80% of those 160 named applications are shared across a few major commercial cloud environments. And so critical there is getting to a common baseline for those secure cloud services that need to be provided from the SCCA perspective of cArmy -- getting cArmy as a hybrid cloud ecosystem, going operational there so we can collapse those customers. The second piece there, when it comes to finishing out FY20 is starting to lay the foundation for expanding that common baseline into secret as well, so that we can get a parity of those shared services between unclass[ified] and secret across a hybrid cloud model.

Next priorities, obviously support of the software factory, getting those basic components of software development out into the hands of our soldiers, but also starting to unlock the value of our data because at the end of the day, like our data is our strategic asset.

Bringing on a data framework where we can start to service enable our data sets, leveraging the power of APIs to be able to modernize some of our legacy applications and being able to expose data in real time. That foundation of data where and when you need it at any classification in any domain is really the key foundation and enabler to Joint All Domain Operations. When we talk about any sensor and any shooter in any C2 node sharing data in real time, that data has to be visible, accessible, understandable, trusted, interoperable and secure, and we believe that service enabling our datasets is a critical component to enabling that vision.

A longer version of this article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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