CIA – Amazon Cloud Deal Prompts Questions Not Answers

CIA HEADQUARTERS

So the CIA is back in the news, at least Federal Computer Week. But it is interesting to me because the portion of the CIA that has cut this deal is one I am familiar with from my days as AFMC CTO and CIO.

Back in 1999, the CIA created its own venture capital group, In-Q-Tel, to invest in emerging technologies that can support intelligence operations. Then AFMC/CC Gen. Lester Lyles was intrigued by the concept and asked that I research the model for our CTO approach to internal improvements in AFMC. It was then and remains a fascinating federal government concept.

Look at some recent investments, and a move to the cloud shouldn’t be too surprising:

•Delphix, data management and virtualization solutions
•Tyfone, mobile security in the cloud
•Cloudant, big data analytics in the cloud.
•Huddle, secure cloud-based collaboration
•Adaptive Computing, developer of a cloud computing operating system

And that goes back just to August. Obviously, the CIA sees great value in cloud computing for the entire intelligence community in areas such as collaboration, analytic and mobile. Makes me wonder why they have been slow to adopt Appian BPM as the process solution…. Appian provisions the AMAZON Cloud!! and Appian runs in the Amazon Cloud with FISMA moderate security already. Just think what the collaboration would be like for CIA with a higher security CIA cloud using Appian and a secure TEMPO feed.

For CIA this is a step in the evolution of their VC investments. The tough part for Amazon is that this contract will never be a referable account in the traditional sense. We’ll likely never see a case study about how the CIA is using the cloud on the Amazon Web Service site.

If you think about the vast amounts of data the CIA and the rest of the intell community has, a cloud approach is probably the only solution that brings any hope of discovering and using the intelligence and knowledge locked away in that data.

For Amazon, this is simply a great deal to make because it is high dollar and long term.

But people have plenty of questions, one of which is, what exactly does it mean that they are going to “build” a private cloud? Most of you who read my blog will already have an idea of that model given the DOD declared intent to set up a “private cloud” using DISA for DOD data and applications.

Are they going to literally and figuratively wall off part of GovCloud? DISA Cloud? Or, are they going to break ground some other place?

Is this government-owned/government-operated cloud or contractor-owned/contractor operated? Or some kind of hybrid?

Who are Amazon’s partners? The long list of partners on the government section of the AWS site doesn’t reveal a lot of household names.

One person speculated to me that this might be the start of Amazon’s play to become more like IBM by providing upfront consulting through build out, and then maintenance and operations. It’s a 10-year deal, though I’m sure at least half is in options, but obviously the CIA and Amazon see this as a relationship.

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