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DISA Lays Plan for Future Cloud Communications Investment

August 09, 2016

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), a combat support agency for the U.S. Department of Defense, provides and supports communications services for high-ranking groups and officials in the government, including the President, that help defend the U.S. in wartime and peacetime.


DISA officials recently gathered with other agencies and informed attendees at the Federal Cloud Computing Summit. This event, which took place in late July in D.C., took a look at the future of computing systems as they relate to communications. In large part, the focus of the event’s presentations and discussions concerned the cloud and its public and private use in order to assist traditional computing and provide cost savings to the Department of Defense.

John Hale, the chief of the DISA Cloud Portfolio in the Services Development Directorate, broke the situation into three distinct parts. He said DISA must invest in modern hardware for datacenters, explore the use of an on-premise private cloud, and make use of commercial cloud systems that exist off-premise.

His summary of the current situation is that the budget for his organization is limited and will continue to shrink. He mentioned that the DISA budget “looks like everyone else’s in the department” and that it will be necessary to combat budget cuts with cost saving measures and reduced overhead.

Perhaps the most difficult of the three parts he mentioned is the need for the Department of Defense to invest in modern datacenter hardware. Server closets do not come cheap, but they will be necessary for department officials if they want their communications systems to work with speed and maintain high reliability for all government officials.

Hale noted that he wants DISA to move as much computing into the cloud as possible. In order to reach that goal and to invest in better datacenter hardware as the budget allows, he said off-premise commercial cloud services will represent an essential part of Defense communications. He mentioned that the Cloud Portfolio Office has figured out a common set of shared services that multiple levels of government need to work in the commercial cloud.

“Securing credentials and maintaining key management and control is paramount,” Hale said, “therefore, we will also offer a Trusted Cloud Credential Manager (TCCM) service, which allows us to control the credentials.”

Once shared commercial cloud services begin to save costs, it should be more likely that DISA will have the necessary funds to purchase more hardware for on-premise systems that will be necessary for handling the highest levels of information sharing.

“There are certain workloads we’ve identified as needing to be ‘on our concrete’ from a data ownership and data management perspective,” Hale continued. “The best example of a use case scenario for on-premise private cloud is nuclear command and control. We’re simply not going to run those capabilities out of an off-premise commercial cloud environment.”

That said, DISA has already released its bid proposal for the second round of the milCloud contract, which means to bring commercial cloud providers onto the DISA premises to construct a commercial-level private cloud on DISA’s concrete. It is clear that DISA has a vision for how the Department of Defense can best secure and unify its communications and that it has begun taking large steps in turning talk into reality. Future investment in this area may also see the pages of TMC as greater use of the public cloud begins to save costs for DISA and associated partners throughout the coming years.




Edited by Alicia Young

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