Defense Department News

Clear Skies for DOD Cloud Initiative

Feb. 4, 2019 | BY Terri Moon Cronk

The Defense Department is unveiling the DOD Cloud Initiative today that will move its computing and storage functions to the cloud, the department’s chief information officer said.

“DOD has never stepped back and created a holistic view of what it is we’re trying to do with the cloud,” Dana Deasy said. “The strategy addresses what we’re trying to do, … the problems we’re trying to solve and the objectives [we want to meet].”

The biggest reason DOD needs a cloud strategy is because it’s a rallying point for everyone to be able to talk in a common language and understand the end state they’re trying to achieve, Deasy said.  

One key feature of the cloud is accelerated computing speed, which compresses the time it takes to stand up new capabilities and get them into the hands of the warfighter, he said.

Secondly, Deasy said, DOD can build next-generation applications differently. “It allows us to take advantage of all the new technology from the various commercial cloud providers and create applications that are a lot more resilient [and elastic],” he said, adding that such apps can ask for computer power when needed and decrease accordingly.

Third, and most important, Deasy said, is the warfighter.

“One of the things traditional computing has always had a problem with is the warfighter sitting out on the tactical edge, [with the] cloud sitting [elsewhere]. Now imagine a world where we can take that compute power with new applications on top of it, and put the cloud right into the hands of the tactical fighter on the edge. That’s why the cloud is so important to us,” he said.

JEDI Cloud

The cloud strategy incorporates multiple cloud providers, including the first-ever enterprise general-purpose cloud, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, which will help DOD put in place enterprise cloud solutions to meet its needs.

The general-purpose cloud can be used by employees who need large-scale computer power at their fingertips, the CIO said.

But because a general-purpose cloud cannot meet every DOD need, the department will also have special-purpose — also known as fit-for-purpose — and internal-purpose clouds.

Cloud capability also allows DOD to communicate with other agencies, which could be categorized as a special-purpose category. Internal-purpose clouds will be for in-house needs, such as office tools, Deasy said.

Cybersecurity

A critical feature of the cloud is its top-notch security, he said.

“Imagine being able to take advantage of a cloud and all the tools that come with it so you can inherently build an application from the start with a lot more robust security than how we’ve traditionally built applications,” Deasy said.

Additionally, the scale, speed and technological advancements being made in the security “space” are profound, and they are going to be dramatic as the cloud moves forward, he said.

DOD wants to embrace all the technology offerings that are going to be built in the space called cyberprotection, Deasy added.

Digital Modernization

The CIO said the cloud is fundamentally important to everything DOD is doing in its digital modernization reform.

“Cloud in itself just gives you compute capability,” he explained. “It’s what you choose to build on top of that that matters. And in this case, I believe what DOD is going to want to focus on — really embrace and accelerate as fast as we can — is how we adopt and bring artificial intelligence into the organization.”

To build great AI applications, Deasy said, massive computing and massive storage capabilities will be required. “By having an enterprise cloud, it’s what we put on top of it — in this case, artificial intelligence — [so] it’s almost a fundamental imperative to have a cloud in place to do great things with AI,” he said.

Besides AI, DOD will have command and control and next-generation communications. “And all of that has to be wrapped around with robust cybersecurity,” Deasy added.

“I always like to say if you put a great enterprise cloud in place, you then can use that as an enabler to do great things,” he said.