milCloud 2.0: The Case for Cloud in the Military

In June of 2017, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) had tasked CSRA with supporting milCloud 2.0, a private cloud infrastructure designed to help the military embrace the cloud. In January, the DoD and CSRA announced that they would launch milCloud 2.0 in two locations – Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, and Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma ahead of schedule, on February 1, 2018.

But to understand the role that milCloud 2.0 will pay in spurring military cloud adoption, and the other benefits that it will deliver to DoD, we first have to look at why the cloud is so mission critical to the military today.

The Case for the Cloud in the Military

Today’s warfighter is more connected and more reliant on IT solutions than at any other time in history. In this environment, enterprise agility, which is one of the biggest benefits of moving to the cloud, is essential and can, in fact, be the difference between life and death for warfighters.

The cloud enables the military to rapidly spin up the network resources required by mission critical applications that support the warfighter without the need to purchase and provision data center hardware – this can deliver necessary applications to the warfighter in much faster and efficient manner. The cloud also delivers cost savings by eliminating the need to purchase and maintain hardware that is often underutilized. Instead, these resources are purchased as a service, and the military only pays for what it uses.

With so many benefits, it’s easy to see why the military is so bullish about migrating to the cloud. Unfortunately, cloud migration is easier said than done for DoD.

Defending DoD Data and Networks

DoD networks support essential military applications responsible for mission-critical functions. Should they be compromised, it would compromise national security. For this reason, DoD and DISA hold military networks to highest security standards.

While public cloud offerings are efficient because of their scalability, they’re not a suitable option for the DoD because of the security requirements that they require beyond the already high standards baked in by commercial clouds providers.

This is why milCloud 2.0 is so important. It gives DoD the enterprise agility and flexibility of the cloud, along with additional services. It also exists within the Department of Defense Information Network (DoDIN), giving it an added layer of security. It’s this added layer of security and increased transparency provided by milCloud 2.0 that will ease the way for additional, rapid migration to the cloud for DoD.

But how does milCloud 2.0 fit into DoD network infrastructure as a whole?

Part of a Larger, Hybrid Solution

milCloud 2.0 is a private cloud that represents just one element of the DoD and DISA’s hybrid cloud deployment strategy, which includes both public cloud and traditional data centers. To support this hybrid approach milCloud 2.0’s open architecture is designed to enable management of all DoD cloud resources – including public and private clouds – via a single pane of glass. The military will also continue to use traditional data centers for some workloads. These data centers will function to run legacy systems that can’t be moved to the cloud and to house the DoD’s most sensitive applications and information.

The combination of milCloud 2.0, public cloud, and traditional data centers will effectively create a hybrid IT infrastructure that allows the DoD to run applications and house workloads in the architecture that is best suited to their individual needs and security requirements.

This raises another interesting question – if milCloud 2.0 exists within DoDIN, how is it not just another data center?

Not Another Data Center

milCloud 2.0 is not just another data center. The single biggest differentiator between milCloud 2.0 and a traditional DoD data center is that CSRA owns the hardware, but DoD is able to use the services facilitated by this hardware, paying for only what it uses. In other words, milCloud 2.0 is a service and not an infrastructure. It provides a self-service provisioning portal to DoD that enables military users to build up an infrastructure quickly, and ramp up and ramp down as needed.

milCloud 2.0 is also an incredible example of a public-private partnership that involves an industry partner working to power DISA’s cloud. This partnership effectively enables the military to purchase secure infrastructure, software, infrastructure management tools and support as a service – dramatically increasing the agility and flexibility of America’s military and its IT infrastructure.

So, if milCloud 2.0 isn’t just another data center, why was it built instead of using services from existing cloud providers?

More Secure Less Proprietary

milCloud 2.0 is sits within DoDIN, which means that it can be used to house workloads and data that may be considered too sensitive for a public cloud environment. But why not have a cloud provider build their cloud on-premise within DoDIN, instead?

The single biggest reason is to avoid vendor lock-in. In doing so, the DoD will not only be able to manage pricing but be able to leverage open standards to incorporate innovations across the industry, rather than a what is brought to market by a single vendor.

By working with a partner like CSRA to build milCloud 2.0, DoD received a private cloud that was built on open standards and extremely modular in nature. As new technologies are invented and come on the market, they can more easily and effectively be integrated into milCloud 2.0.

Ultimately, the Cloud Executive Steering Group (CESG) and DISA are to be applauded for creating an effective cloud vision for the DoD. By using traditional data centers coupled with a “cloud of clouds,” the DoD has the flexibility it needs to utilize the right architecture for each workload; they can house sensitive applications, systems and data in an architecture that has the enterprise agility of the cloud, with the security of a data center.

Learn more about milCloud 2.0 here


A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn

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