DOE to broker its own cloud services

The department is taking a cloud brokerage approach to securely connecting a diverse set of users and partner organizations.

At large federal agencies, no one flavor of cloud can meet all of the diverse missions and requirements for every component organization. 

As a result, organizations such as the Energy Department, NASA and even smaller, innovative agencies such as the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, are embracing the cloud brokerage concept wherein they can connect a wide range of federal users and partner organizations to a federated marketplace of cloud service providers.

DOE has partnered with the National Nuclear Security Administration, the DOE agency responsible for the management and security of the nation’s nuclear weapons, to deliver a secure cloud services brokerage technology, YOURcloud, which will connect a diverse set of users, spanning federal management and operations constituencies, to a marketplace of cloud service providers.

Energy officials describe the department’s vision as “a cloud of clouds approach” in a new report that explains how DOE’s 22 national laboratories are adopting cloud computing.

DOE officials recognize that a one-size-fits-all strategy is not going to work for the department’s diverse workforce and the different missions of its component agencies. They hope that the report, “The Department of Energy National Laboratories and Plants: Leadership in Cloud Computing,” will serve as a status report and a vehicle to share implementations and best practices for cloud computing across the nation.

According to the report, DOE and NNSA plan to deliver three key technologies during the next 12 months, via the department’s RightPath program.

  • ONEvoice, a comprehensive collaboration solution connecting scientist to scientist, DOE headquarters to the field and federal workers to contractors in an immersive technology platform that will include desktop video, voice, instant messaging, Web conferencing, desktop sharing and presence capabilities across geographic boundaries. 
  • OneNNSA Network, a secure overlay network that provides Federal Information Processing System 140-2 encrypted communication paths between sites and headquarters. The approach provides a high bandwidth and secure transport for consuming services from YOURcloud and utilization of the ONEvoice stack.
  • YOURcloud, a secure cloud services brokerage developed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and revamped to meet DOE/NNSA enterprise requirements. YOURcloud will provide a self-service portal for infrastructure-as-a-service offerings across multiple cloud service providers — on premise, corporately provided, and through public clouds such as the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

Examples of national labs’ use of cloud computing show the varying degree of movement to the cloud; there is not one solution, but many. Some highlights worth mentioning include examples of software-as-a-service deployment, security concerns and Google Apps, and virtual desktop infrastructure implementations.

Grappling with unique SaaS challenges: Brookhaven National Laboratory is in a better position to evaluate the unique challenges of software-as-a-service after implementing LawLogix, a SaaS package that currently assists BNL personnel with electronic visa processing. BNL had concerns about software update schedules being at the discretion of the cloud provider, making it difficult for the lab to manage risks. But BNL also found that there were benefits, such as its personnel no longer having to worry about applying security patches or maintaining hardware related to the service.

Security concerns assuaged: Idaho National Laboratory has moved 5,000 users to Google Apps for Government for e-mail and collaboration. Information security has been of particular significance in this endeavor. As a result, the technical security around the encryption mechanisms of information both in-transit and at-rest were reviewed and assessed. It was determined that the overall risk profile associated with this information decreased due to the modernization of infrastructure in the cloud and the Google advanced protection mechanisms in place.

Virtual desktop infrastructures on the rise: Several labs are either in the pilot stage or have implemented virtual desktop infrastructures. For instance, the Ames Laboratory is developing a private administrative infrastructure cloud using VMware’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. The aim is to reduce hardware costs and improve energy efficiency, plus streamline desktop support and cyber incident response.

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