The Pentagon is considering the idea of hosting its entire unclassified email system on the cloud. Given that the Pentagon employs roughly 1.6 million people, this would be a huge move.
Right now the military’s top-brass is simply in the information gathering stage, however, and is gathering opinions from industry leaders.
The military is looking to replace the DoD Enterprise Email service, which is only three years old. Apparently, the system is proving to be too costly, and the military is looking to trim costs. Given the cost saving benefits of the cloud, it’s not all too surprising to see them looking into all-online services.
It should be emphasised that if the Pentagon does go the cloud route, it will only do so for unclassified information. The Department of Defense has already recognised that relying too much on the cloud, especially with sensitive and classified information, would create risks.
The Department of Defense appears to be considering two options. One option would be to contract a vendor to set up on-site cloud capabilities to be hosted by the government itself. The second option, and the likely more cost effective option, would be to have an outside contractor provide cloud services from its own facilities.
So far the DoD doesn’t appear to be committing to anything. Security remains a big issue for the Pentagon, even for unclassified information. The recent rash of hacking attempts, many of them targeting military assets, has brought online security directly to the forefront of national security. Of course, the cloud can actually be very secure, if the proper precautions are taken.
Either way, the Pentagon certainly won’t be moving its most sensitive data to the cloud anytime soon, and almost certainly would never hand that data over to third party companies. The DoD’s interest in the cloud, however, is an encouraging sign for the industry and offers further proof of the cloud’s ability to cut costs.
Interested, cloud-savvy parties have until 15 October to respond to the government’s inquiry.
This past August the Defense Department’s information technology arm, DISA, put together and published a set of “best practices” guidelines. The Pentagon already ran some trials with Amazon’s Web Services in regards to handling sensitive but unclassified data, and DISA’s guidelines were the result of these tests.
By and large the guidelines are a bit of a slog, but they do contain a good introduction to how cloud computing works, its benefits, and also some of the unique security concerns associated with it. For industry experts, the guide doesn’t say much knew, but for the military it reflects the growing importance of cloud technology in military applications.
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