Choosing the right DOD cloud
- By Fazal Mohammed
- Jun 01, 2021
There are several common misconceptions related to the various Defense Department cloud initiatives that are causing confusion among observers, the media and within government itself. Lately, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure initiative has been the object of most discussion, owing to the controversial nature of the procurement. Lost in all of that discussion are the other cloud initiatives that DOD users can access now and how those programs can complement JEDI in the future.
The Air Force Cloud One contract and the associated Platform One contract, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s milCloud 2.0 program, the CIA’s Commercial Cloud Enterprise (C2E) contract and other vehicles offering cloud services to DOD and other government users create a crowded field that may confuse users who can’t tell whether these initiatives present competing options or services that are complementary to JEDI. Further, with delays to JEDI, many don’t know whether to move forward to engage with some of the other contracts to meet their immediate cloud needs or to hold off to see how the ongoing JEDI saga plays out.
To understand how to proceed, a transportation analogy might be helpful. Suppose you’re looking for a new vehicle for getting from one point to another. You might decide a bicycle would be the most efficient and cost-effective option. At that point, you could buy a bike from a commercial vendor, or you have such unique requirements that you want to build a bike after buying the parts from various manufacturers. At some point, you might find that a bike may not fit the bill after all and that a car is really what’s required. Then the choices become whether to buy an economy car or a Lamborghini -- or something else entirely, uniquely built to your own specifications.
Like someone looking to purchase a bike or car, DOD users who need cloud services can consider commercial offerings such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and others. If, however, they want their cloud pre-designed or want to build their own, they’ll want to look at different contract vehicles for obtaining those services.
Cloud One, for example, may be the best bet for those going with the fully-built option. Users can buy AWS or Azure services through Cloud One on top of a zero-trust, secure environment already established at enterprise scale and proven to work. The contract also provides modernization and migration as a service, which – to extend the transportation analogy – might be viewed as akin to leasing a car and getting automatic upgrades as new features become available.
Cloud One has done the difficult part of building the "factory" needed to lay the groundwork necessary to run DOD workloads in the cloud (networking, billing, boundary protection, isolation, etc.). This hard work by Cloud One provides easy inheritance of security and services for applications to onboard or even try out the cloud for their needs. Paired with Platform One, a program offering managed services supporting DODwide DevSecOps, the analogy extends even further to the ability to build out the “car” users envision for the future.
Of course, DOD organizations have requirements that differ substantially from those of commercial customers. And in many cases, these users will want to build their own cloud environments, and that is where vehicles like JEDI, milCloud 2.0 and C2E come in. Again, to extend the analogy, those programs provide a vehicle to buy the parts to “build your own” at a highly discounted rate. As with a car, users might need want a unique color or a combination of features that are not standard. These programs provide a convenient and cost-effective way to do that.
Even better, these programs are not necessarily in competition with each other. Those purchasing Azure services via Cloud One would potentially be positioned to take advantage of the efficiencies and discounts offered by JEDI in the future.
In the end, the goal is providing ubiquitous cloud to the edge in a way that gives DOD and other government organizations the best rate for commodity services. Despite some highly publicized controversies, the DOD has not been hindered in getting missions to the cloud. These capabilities exists today.
Fazal Mohammed is a solutions director at Science Applications International Corp.