Is Cloud Computing real? Ask DISA.

Data Center

Like you, I am really sick of the hype around "cloud computing." Our industry hasn't really defined cloud computing so its easy to dismiss it as the latest spoonful of marketing pablum (remember things like "push" content and "dynamic trade?" Yuck!). Moving beyond the market-speak alone however there are some really interesting projects going on. In my humble opinion, one of the most progressive of these is taking place at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). DISA is "a combat support agency responsible for planning, engineering, acquiring, fielding, and supporting global net-centric solutions to serve the needs of the President, Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, and other DoD Components, under all conditions of peace and war." In other words, DISA is the IT smarts behind the U.S. military. There are plenty of details about what DISA is doing, but here are a few highlights: 1. DISA is looking at cloud computing in 4 areas: Infrastructure-as-a-service (ex. virtual desktops), platform-as-a-service (ex. processing, storage), software-as-a-service (ex. software stack, SOA), and applications-as-a-service (ex. MS Office). 2. DISA is already doing a lot of research and testing around a cloud development model. DISA is a strong proponent of, for sharing and developing open source software within DOD. 3. DISA is working with vendors like HP, Northrup Grumman, Mitre, and Simtone on advancing its existing infrastructure as well as future projects. While cloud computing is a relatively immature architecture, DISA is already reaping efficiency benefits. For example, DISA is already able to provision processors and storage from a shared pool within a few days -- a process that used to take weeks to accomplish. Through the use of virtualization and technology refresh, DISA also was able to reduce its "annual sustainment cost" for one of its customers from $26 million to $14 million. Pretty impressive. As always, I have a few take-aways from this example: 1. While DISA is doing a great job of presnting its cloud achievements, you have to really track the military and/or federal space to know about it. The feds, especially CIO Vivek Kundra and CTO Aneesh Chopra, need to trumpet the successes and lessons learned at DISA much more aggressively. 2. Before confusing the market with more cloud hype, I suggest that tech companies become familiar with a real implementation story at DISA. 3. For all the naysayers that describe federal IT with examples of IBM 370s still running, the DISA cloud story is a breadth of fresh air. Here is an example where the feds are on the cutting edge.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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