A few staff experts can formulate new strategies in a short time. Over the years, the U.S. Defense Department has accumulated a large collection of long-range planning documents. However, none of the plans ever was fully implemented, as new administrations kept changing priorities.
The just announced Defense Department Cloud Computing Strategy presents a long list of radically new directions. Ultimately, it will take hundreds of thousands of person-years to accomplish what has been just outlined. Several points stand out.
In one, individual programs would not design and operate their own infrastructures to deliver computer services. Users would develop only applications. This approach will require tearing apart more than 3,000 existing programs. A pooled environment will be supported by cloud computing that depends on different processing, storing and communications technologies. Small application codes then can be managed separately, relying exclusively on standard interfaces. The challenge will be how to manage more than 15 years’ worth of legacy software worth about half a trillion dollars, but in completely different configurations. Making such changes will require huge cost reductions of the infrastructure that currently costs $19 billion per year.
Another point is that cloud computing will reduce the costs of the existing computing infrastructure. The Defense Department will have to virtualize close to 100,000 servers and integrate that construct with 10,000 communication links. The department will end up with a small number of enterprise-level pooled and centrally managed operations. This is a short-term multibillion-dollar effort that can be financed only from rapid savings, because no new funding will be available.