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cloud computing

Corps
 Blazes 
Ahead With Cloud Computing

April 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

As they put the necessary pieces in place, Marines are mindful of tight resources and are seeking help from industry.

For the past year, U.S. Marine Corps technical personnel have been implementing a strategy to develop a private cloud. The initiative supports the vision of the commandant while seeking to offer better services to troops in disadvantaged areas of the battlefield.

As part of this effort, members of the Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) Department are working on enterprise licensing agreements with multiple vendors to achieve economies of scale. They also are examining thinning the environment as an element of infrastructure as a service, and they are exploring how an enterprise services support desk would support a cloud environment during the transition from a continuity of services contract to a government-owned, government-operated scenario. In place is a 600-day transition plan to help move from the former to the latter. Robert Anderson, chief, Vision and Strategy Division, HQMC C4, explains that the May 2012 “Marine Corps Private Cloud Computing Environment Strategy” serves as the driving document for the transition, and now Marines are trying to reach the point where they execute the requirements outlined in the paper. “There are multiple pieces that have to occur for this to happen,” he states. Personnel are working on follow-up documents now, including a mobility strategy and a five-year transition plan scheduled for release in June. The latter lays out the next steps for the cloud environment.

DISA Lays Groundwork for Commercial Cloud Computing Contract

March 26, 2013
By Max Cacas

One of the U.S. Defense Department’s top information technology officials says work is beginning on a multiaward contract for commercial cloud computing services, but the official says he has no timeline or total value for the business.

Nuclear Agency's Cloud Computing Plan Comes Together

March 20, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began working on its Yourcloud solution about two years ago and expects to have the cloud computing solution in place by year's end. You can read more about this in "U.S. Nuclear Agency Enhances Cybersecurity With Cloud Computing
." 

One of the surprises along the way to cloud was that NNSA is not alone in the problems it needs to solve, according to Travis Howerton, NNSA chief technology officer. "When we first started putting this together, I would have thought that we were more unique than we are, but when I traveled around talking to other chief information officers and other leaders in government agencies, or even in the commercial sector, everybody's struggling with the same set of issues," Howerton observes. "In general, what surprised me is how much synergy there is in trying to solve this problem government-wide. We're happy to be part of that overall ecosystem and to share with others what we're doing that may be helpful."

Agency officials spent about a year developing a strategic plan for transformation, which includes three pillars: the NNSA Network Vision (2NV), which modernizes the current computing environment by providing a secure, mobile, agile and adaptive IT infrastructure that will allow the NNSA workforce to perform their duties from any device, anywhere, any time; the Joint Cybersecurity Coordination Center (JC3), which provides the agency a capability for understanding the health of the systems, data and network; and the Cyber Sciences Laboratory (CSL), which establishes a process through which theoretical research in IT and cybersecurity can be rapidly applied to operational computing environments.

 

 

Change Is Challenge

March 1, 2013
George I. Seffers

Homeland Security Conference 2013 Show Daily, Day 3

Although many in government are moving as quickly as possible to adopt new technologies, such as cloud computing and mobile devices, individual agencies still face cultural challenges that sometimes prevent them from moving forward, according to officials speaking as part of the Chief Information Officer Council at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference in Washington, D.C.

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Homeland Security Department (DHS), reminded the audience that DHS was created by joining a lot of disparate agencies, all of whom owned individual networks. While the department is working to integrate the information technology infrastructure and consolidate data centers, officials still meet some resistance at the individual agency level. “There’s still have lot of duplication and in some ways duplication is holding us back. I’d like to say we’re making progress, but I’ll let others grade us on that,” Spires said.

Other officials agreed that they meet resistance as well. Robert Carey, deputy chief information officer for the Defense Department cited a culture of change and said a constrained budget environment can be a power catalyst for action in moving toward a more centralized environment.

Cybersecurity itself can present challenges, according to Luke McCormack, chief information officer for the Justice Department. “Cyber’s hard. The individual pieces of that can be very difficult,” he said. He also cited the need to bring people together on emerging technologies, such as cloud-as-a-service, as a challenging issue.

Securing Critical Infrastructure Through Nontraditional Means

February 1, 2013
BY Rita Boland

A cloud project takes advantage of emerging concepts to protect energy against disruptive threats.

Researchers at Cornell University and Washington State University have teamed to create GridCloud, a software-based technology designed to reduce the time and difficulty involved with creating prototypes of smart-grid control paradigms. The system will help overcome hurdles of cloud computing in complex settings. The effort combines Cornell’s Isis2 platform, designed for high-assurance cloud computing, with Washington State’s GridStat technology for smart grid monitoring and control. The advent of this technology promises to boost both the security and the reliability of electrical services.

Developers aim to build a scalable software structure that is secure, self-healing and inexpensive to operate. They believe that by combining Isis2 and GridStat, a cloud-based grid can have all those factors as well as guarantee consistency. Infrastructure owners motivated by economies of scale and the desire to deploy the new smart-grid solutions end up with a system that also is more resistant to attack and likely to survive other disruptions.

Dr. Ken Birman, a professor at Cornell and co-principal investigator on the project, explains that several motivations drive the effort. One involves trying to find a solution to control a power grid when multiple organizations own and have access to the infrastructure. “A second challenge that’s emerged is that people have studied the power grid and found that we don’t operate it very efficiently,” Birman says. Power suppliers often are producing extra power, for example, or finding it difficult to take advantage of renewable sources. Sometimes renewable energy—such as the type that comes from solar panels on homes—is blocked from entering the power grid because officials lack the knowledge to access and use it safely.

Cloud Industry Group Issues Mobile Computing Guidelines

March 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

When it comes to popular smartphones and tablets, security can be a many-layered and necessary endeavor

The growing use of advanced mobile devices, coupled with the increase in wireless broadband speed, is fueling demand by employees to bring their own devices to the job. This situation has opened a new set of security challenges for information technology staff, especially when it comes to the use of apps.

As the popularity and capability of mobile devices expands, standards are necessary to ensure that personal devices can function securely on enterprise networks. To address this need, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) organized its Mobile Working Group last year. The group recently released guidance to members on how enterprise administrators can successfully integrate smartphones and tablets into their work environment. The CSA is a not-for-profit organization of industry representatives focused on information assurance in the cloud computing industry.

U.S. Army Innovates on Cloud Computing Front

March 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Officials work to provide a new cloud approach across 
the service as well as the Defense Department.

U.S. Army officials estimate that by the end of the fiscal year, they will go into production on a new cloud computing solution that could potentially be made available across the Defense Department and could eventually be used to expand cloud capabilities on the battlefield. The platform-as-a-service product incorporates enhanced automation, less expensive software licensing and built-in information assurance.

During the past year, officials with the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Software Engineering Center (SEC), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, have been working on a cloud computing approach known as Cloud.mil. A four-person team took about four months to deliver the first increment, which is now in the pre-production phase and is being touted to Army leaders, as well as to Defense Department and Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) officials, as a possible Army-wide and Defense-wide solution.

U.S. Nuclear Agency Enhances Cybersecurity With Cloud Computing


March 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Officials aim to have a solution in place by year's end.

The U.S. agency responsible for the management and security of the nation’s nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation and naval nuclear reactor programs is racing to put unclassified data on the cloud this year. Cloud computing is expected to provide a wide range of benefits, including greater cybersecurity, lower costs and networking at any time and from anywhere.

Officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an agency within the Department of Energy, expect to have a cloud computing capability this year. The solution, known as Yourcloud, will provide the NNSA with its own cloud computing environment to manage data more securely, efficiently and effectively. It is part of an overall effort to modernize the agency’s information infrastructure. Yourcloud replaces an aging infrastructure that resulted in too many data centers and an inability to refresh equipment as often as necessary.

The Yourcloud infrastructure will be built and owned by industry, while the NNSA will control the data residing in the cloud. “We’ll be using a commercial data center space with a managed cloud provider as well as a managed security provider to offer us fee as a service back to our customer base,” says Travis Howerton, NNSA chief technology officer.. I don’t want to own my own infrastructure on the unclassified side, but I do want to own my own data. That’s why we’ve been pushing the innovation agenda around security, taking advantage of the lower-cost industry options while not compromising our security posture. What we really have to do is figure out how to insource security and outsource computing, to keep the keys of the kingdom inside, to protect the crown jewels, to make sure we own the security of our data, but then to take advantage of low-cost computing wherever it may be. We are evolving to that model.”

Top Information Technology Officials Peer into the Future

February 28, 2013
George I. Seffers

Top information technology officials from a variety of government agencies identified cloud computing, mobile devices and edge technologies as the technologies that will be critical for accomplishing their missions in the future.

Luke McCormack, chief information officer, Justice Department, cited cloud-as-a-service as vital to the future. He urged industry to continue to push the barriers of stack computing, and he mentioned edge technology as an emerging technology. “Edge is going to be really critical to perform missions,” he said. He cited the Google Glass project as an indicator of what the future will bring.

Mobility could be the future of training and simulation, suggested Sandy Peavy, chief information officer for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). She revealed that her office is putting together a pilot program introducing tablet computers into the training environment, and ideally, she would like trainees to be able to access simulation on the mobile device of their choice. Peavy also reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is providing special agents with iPhones and experimenting with other devices. “If I’m going to be able to provide just-in-time training, then mobile technology is the key.”

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Department of Homeland Security, also cited mobility as a key future trend, but he also brought up metadata tagging, saying that it helps to understand the data itself and to establish rules for who sees what information. Metadata tagging is especially important as the department grapples with privacy concerns.

Customs and Border Protection Agency Eyes the Cloud

February 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. agency responsible for customs and border protection has suffered from an unreliable infrastructure and network downtimes but already is seeing benefits from a fledgling move to cloud computing. Those benefits include greater reliability and efficiency and lower costs.

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) priorities include moving the agency to cloud computing and adopting greater use of mobile devices. The CBP Cloud Computing Environment (C3E) moves the agency away from a number of stovepipe platforms. “In the past, we’ve run about every kind of platform that’s out there. We are a large IBM mainframe legacy shop. We use a lot of AIX Unix and also Solaris Unix, so we’ve even got different flavors of Unix out there, and then obviously, big Windows farms,” reveals Charlie Armstrong, CBP chief information officer and assistant commissioner for the office of information and technology. “This new environment that we’re moving to collapses a lot of that down into a single environment and loses all of the mainframe, and it gets us out of building environments from scratch.”

Armstrong describes CBP as being in the early stages of its move to the cloud, but the agency already is seeing benefits, he says. He compares creating a computing environment to building cars. “Building an environment with yesterday’s approach was like going to the car dealership, buying all the parts and having to put the car together yourself. Now, what we’re trying to do is to buy a fully integrated product that allows us to stand up environments quicker and also improve performance,” he explains.

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