Navy set to launch its first ‘cloud store’

While the Defense Department has made some strides over the past year in simplifying the way it buys cloud computing services, individual DoD components are still, to a large extent, on their own when it comes to picking a provider and shepherding them through the military’s security approval process. The Navy hopes to change that beginning next month with a managed service it’s calling its “Cloud Store.”

Version 1.0 of the store will have a decidedly limited selection: its catalog will include just one provider, Amazon Web Services, leaning on an existing contract the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare System Command already holds with AWS.

But by the end of this calendar year, the Navy says it will open a 2.0 version that will feature multiple infrastructure-as-a-service providers and let Navy commands quickly sign up for services that are pre-authorized to handle information up to what DoD defines as “impact level 5” — one step below classified data.

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The “store” concept springs from a lot of legwork the Navy has been conducting over the past year and a half since DoD changed its policy to let the military services procure cloud services on their own rather than relying on the Defense Information Systems Agency to act as the department’s sole “cloud broker.”

In the intervening months, the Navy has brought online its first cloud access point (CAP) and earned DoD certification for that CAP to handle data at levels 4 and 5. Under DoD’s current security rules, CAPs, which monitor network traffic between commercial providers and Defense networks, are an absolute prerequisite for sensitive level 4 and 5 data, which includes personal health information, law enforcement records and unclassified national security systems.

“That was a very big step forward,” Susan Shuryn, the cloud computing lead in the office of the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer, said last week during the DON CIO’s biannual IT conference in San Diego. “The Navy has done that and the other services haven’t gotten there yet, so it’s something we can say we’ve accomplished.”

The first CAP is on the East Coast, but the Navy expects to have interconnections that can serve fleet concentration areas in the western U.S. within the next several months.

The cloud store will be run by the Navy’s existing Data Center Application & Optimization office, which is also the service’s lead organization for scrutinizing and consolidating the services’ own data centers.  The Navy decided it made sense to pair the two operations since its first policy preference is to move existing applications to commercial providers rather than dragging them from one government-operated facility to another.

“We have a number of pilot applications that are already in transition into the cloud environment and we’ve started looking at the rest of our data center consolidation list to see which applications that we’ve already targeted for consolidation belong in that environment as well,” said Earl Marion, who leads commercial cloud projects within the DCAO. “Our approach now is cloud-first. We look at the application and decide whether it can fit in a commercial environment and then work our customers through the steps of getting it from point A to point B.”

The Navy has already used its AWS contract to move 800-900 public-facing websites to the cloud and has instituted policies requiring that other systems that host public data follow suit.

To support its multiple-vendor approach and get more cloud products in its store, the Navy expects to award a follow-on commercial hosting contract sometime in the second half of fiscal 2016. Eventually, the Navy’s centralized cloud hosting agreements are likely to come under the umbrella of its massive Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract.

The current NGEN contract is held entirely by HP Enterprise Services, but the Navy is in the early stages of recompeting the current agreement. Cloud and end user hardware as-a-service are expected to be among the most significant new additions to the contract, which manages the bulk of IT operations within the Navy’s 800,000-seat network. Current plans call for the next round of NGEN to be awarded in the second quarter of 2018.

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