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cloud computing

Is Big Data the Way 
Ahead for Intelligence?

October 1, 2013

Another Overhyped Fad

By Mark M. Lowenthal

Director of National Intelligence Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, USAF (Ret.), once observed that one of the peculiar behaviors of the intelligence community is to erect totem poles to the latest fad, dance around them until exhaustion sets in, and then congratulate oneself on a job well done.

One of our more recent totem poles is big data. Big data is a byproduct of the wired world we now inhabit. The ability to amass and manipulate large amounts of data on computers offers, to some, tantalizing possibilities for analysis and forecasting that did not exist before. A great deal of discussion about big data has taken place, which in essence means the possibility of gaining new insights and connections from the reams of new data created every day.

Or does it?

Read the complete perspective

A Longtime Tool of the Community

By Lewis Shepherd

What do modern intelligence agencies run on? They are internal combustion engines burning pipelines of data, and the more fuel they burn the better their mileage. Analysts and decision makers are the drivers of these vast engines; but to keep them from hoofing it, we need big data.

The intelligence community necessarily has been a pioneer in big data since inception, as both were conceived during the decade after World War II. The intelligence community and big data science always have been intertwined because of their shared goal: producing and refining information describing the world around us, for important and utilitarian purposes.

Read the complete perspective

Committed to Cloud Computing

October 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Recent insider security breaches have put increased scrutiny on the U.S. intelligence community’s cloud computing plans. But cloud computing initiatives remain unchanged as the technology is expected to enhance cybersecurity and provide analysts with easier ways to do their jobs in less time.

With cloud computing, reams of data reside in one location rather than in a variety of repositories. Combining data leads to greater efficiencies for intelligence analysts, but in the view of some, it also means greater vulnerabilities. “There’s a school of thought that says if you co-locate data, you actually expose more of it in case of an insider threat than if you keep it all in separate repositories by data type,” explains Lonny Anderson, National Security Agency (NSA) chief information officer. “The onus is on us to convince the rest of the community, the rest of the Defense Department, that we can secure their information in the cloud in a way that they simply can’t secure it today.”

Anderson acknowledges that the recent insider leaks have increased doubts within the intelligence community about cloud computing, but he expresses confidence that the agency and the intelligence community are on the right path. “I think everybody is a little more nervous and a little more security conscious.

“Everything we’ve learned so far of [NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s] activities has reinforced for us that the path we’re already on is the right path. The lesson we’ve learned is the need to share information but to share selectively, only with those with a need to know,” Anderson says. “The leaks actually reinforced the need to move to the cloud and move there more quickly.”

ICITE Builds From the Desktop Up

September 9, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

As the intelligence community moves into the cloud, it launches the first step at the desktop level.

Army Signal Expands Its Reach

September 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Army Signal Corps is expanding the work its personnel conduct while dealing with technology and operational challenges that both help and hinder its efforts. On the surface, Army signal is facing the common dilemma afflicting many other military specialties—it must do more with fewer resources.

NATO Seeks 
Umbrella
 Communications

September 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

NATO is adopting an enterprise approach to networking so it can take advantage of new defense information system capabilities as well as recent developments gleaned from Southwest Asia operations. This approach would allow different countries participating in alliance operations to network their own command, control and communications systems at the onset of an operation.

AFCEA Answers: GSA’s McClure Cites Two Factors for Security in the Cloud

August 5, 2013
By Max Cacas

When it comes to cloud computing, there are two items that are top of mind for Dave McClure, Associate Administrator with the General Services Administration (GSA) in Washington, D.C.
 
“One is boundaries. Where does a cloud service provider’s authorization and control begin and end?” he noted on a recent edition of the “AFCEA Answers” radio show. McClure goes on to explain that while an infrastructure provider might have a given set of controls and responsibilities, there are software applications that, as he puts it, “sit on top of that infrastructure. Who owns the apps, and who is responsible for security in the application space?”
 
McClure, who has had a long career in information technology in both the private sector and government, suggests that the other challenging security area in today’s cloud computing environment deals with defining the business side of cloud. “There’s some confusion between security controls and contractual terms that deal with access issues, location issues, and usage, some of which are contract, more than straight security concerns. Getting all of that right—the boundaries, the authentication piece, the contract piece—there’s definitely a lot to pay attention to in the cloud space.”
 
Edwin Elmore, Cloud Computing Business Development Manager with Cisco Systems in Washington, sees the challenge of security in the cloud as one of “taking the physical world and moving it to the virtualized world. When you look at cloud computing, it’s a heavily virtualized environment, so the same controls you have around a physical perimeter in your physical data center, now you have to extend it to the virtualized world.” And that, he says, includes applying the same security protocols when it comes to virtual machines exchanging data with each other.
 

Shifting Numbers Cast Doubt on Federal Data Center Consolidation

July 26, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

Government officials now admit they underestimated the scope and complexity of the federal data center realm.

 

Halvorsen: DISA Cloud Contract Will Simplify Things

July 18, 2013
By Max Cacas

In the coming months, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is expected to issue its multiaward contract for cloud computing services.

Terry Halvorsen, chief information officer with the Department of the Navy, believes that the contract will make his life simpler.  “Much as we have done with our software enterprise licencing program, where we have bundled up the requirements, and we can go to the marketplace, DISA will be able to bundle the requirements, and we’ll be able to go in, and we will represent a much bigger share of the market, more money on the table, and that will get us much more competitive pricing,” he says in a recent episode of the new AFCEA Answers radio program.

In addition, the military services will have even more options for using cloud computing to perform their missions, according to Henry Fleischman, chief technologist, Federal Cloud Solutions, Hewlett-Packard in Washington.
“It will provide a mechanism to consume cloud services that are certified for government use [and] safe for the end users at different agencies to consume, and I think it will open up an ecosystem of cloud service providers that agencies can have a direct relationship with,” he explains.

Another outcome, says Fleischman, is that it will, “drive a level of standardization in the cloud offerings for government, in that, by being a certified DISA cloud provider, it will allow agencies to be more direct about what we want today.”

He also believes that in the long-run, a successful multi-award contract for cloud computing services will also offer his service more competitive pricing, and at the same time make the contract more valuable to cloud service providers chosen to offer commercial cloud services to the military. 

A Joint Environment Changes Everything

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant U.S. Coast Guard commandant for command, control, communications and information technology, sees the Joint Information Environment as an opportunity to resolve some of the most pressing information technology problems in the years to come as he faces a future with more challenges and fewer resources. He says a military-wide common operating environment will establish “enterprisewide mandates that programs cannot ignore.”

The admiral told the recent AFCEA Solutions Series–George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I,” the Joint Information Environment (JIE) will allow for more efficient system configurations and facilitate consolidation of the Coast Guard’s information technology work force. As the director of the U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command, he also is mindful that the JIE will improve his ability to control what devices are attached to the network, giving him, for example, the opportunity to quickly detect and order the removal of an unauthorized USB thumb drive inserted into a secure network computer.

Hewing to the reality of doing more with less, the admiral also told conference attendees that within the next eight months, the Coast Guard is expected to move to the U.S. Defense Department’s enterprise email system. Adm. Day stated that even though this move initially may cost more in some cases, the long-term benefits to the service will mitigate and justify some of those costs. In addition, acknowledging the futility of reinventing the wheel, he noted that the Coast Guard is adopting the U.S. Air Force’s Virtual Flight Bag, which replaces nearly 300 pounds of printed manuals and charts carried aboard aircraft by crews. Apple iPads will be loaded with digital copies of the same material.

No Venue, No Problem

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

The U.S. Navy uses a popular online collaboration tool 
to change course around last-minute travel restrictions.

The U.S. Naval Safety and Environmental Training Center, charged with conducting safety and environmental training worldwide, successfully is circumventing hurriedly imposed government travel restrictions by using an online application to conduct safety and environmental training. The tool recently enabled the center to conduct an annual conference with more than 1,000 attendees.

Normally used for smaller meetings, the Adobe Connect software, which operates in the cloud environment, is readily available to the entire U.S. defense community through the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA’s) Defense Connect Online (DCO).

“We execute an annual joint occupational safety and health conference,” explains Cmdr. Greg Cook, USN, commanding officer, U.S. Naval Safety and Environmental Training Center (NSETC) in Norfolk, Virginia. “We have members of all five services ... active duty military as well as civilians across the services.” The conference has been offered annually for the past 20 years, with venues alternating each year between Norfolk and San Diego.

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