The DoD Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 IT cost of the Business Mission—excluding payroll costs for uniformed and civilian personnel—is $5.2 billion, in addition to 1/3 of the costs of the communications and computing infrastructure tacking on an additional $5.4 billion to total costs.
The average IT budgets of the largest US corporate organizations are exceeded by the scope of DoD Business Applications by a multiple of three. As a result, DoD Business Operations need to think about its future IT directions as operating a secure and private cloud that is managed organically by the DoD Business Mission in order to squeeze the cost benefits out of the cloud.
There are many forms of cloud computing, ranging from Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), but when it comes to the Department of Defense, offerings that can offer support of over 2,000 applications need apply. Business Operations cannot be linked to “public” clouds that are proprietary.
The DoD, for example, can’t rely on the largest cloud service like the Amazon Elastic Cloud, which offers computing capacity completely managed by the customer and is thus a “public cloud.” Because compute processing is purchased on demand, Amazon is an IaaS service. Once your applications are placed in the proprietary Amazon cloud, however, it is difficult to transfer the workload into a different environment.
Google, however, offers a PaaS service as a public cloud (read: accessible to all) via the Google App Engine. Google allows developers to build, host and run web applications on Google’s mature infrastructure with its own operating system; Google only provides a few Google-managed applications.
Salesforce.com’s enterprise level computing currently operates at $1.4 billion revenue rate per year, with 2 million subscribers signed up for SaaS application services running in a proprietary PaaS environment. Because Salesforce offers only proprietary solutions and can’t be considered by DoD, although Salesforce’s recent partnership with VMware might change all that.
Other cloud providers offer IaaS services, but they all leave it to customers to manage their own applications; they qualify for DoD applications provided that would meet open source and security criteria.
Open Platform and Open Source
Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform offers a PaaS environment for developers to create cloud applications and offers services running in Microsoft’s data centers on a proprietary .Net environment. These preferentially .Net applications are integrated into a Microsoft controlled software environment but can be defined as a “closed” platform.
Currently, DoD Business Mission applications are running largely in a Microsoft .Net environment. What remains to be seen is if DoD will pursue cloud migration into a multi-vendor “open platform” and “open source” programming environment or continue sticking to a restrictive Microsoft .Net?
The largest share of the DoD IT budget goes towards the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which has advocated the adoption of the open source SourceForge library in April 2009 for unclassified programs. DISA’s Forge.mil program enables collaborative software development and cross-program sharing of software, system components ad services in support of network-centric operations and warfare. Forge.mil is modeled from concepts proven in open-source software development and represents a collection of screened software components and is used by thousands of developers. Forge.mil takes advantage of a large library of tested software projects and its components are continuously evaluated by thousands of contributors (including some from firms like IBM, Oracle and HP although not from Microsoft, which controls its own library of codes).
OSS is defined as software for which the human-readable source code is available for use, study, reuse, modification, enhancement and redistribution by the users of that software by a DoD Memorandum of October 16, 2009 by the Acting DoD Chief Information Officer on “Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software (OSS).” OSS meets the definition of “commercial computer software” and will thus be given preference in building systems. DoD has began the process of adoption of open course computer code with the announcement of Forge.mil.
Due to the emigration of business applications, a reorientation of systems development technologies in favor of running on “private clouds”—while taking advantage of “open source” techniques—is necessary in order to save the most. The technologies currently offered for the construction of “private” clouds will help to achieve the complete separation of the platforms on which applications run, from the applications themselves. The simplification that can be achieved through the sharing of “open” source code from the Forge.mil library makes delivering cloud solutions cheaper, quicker and more readily available.
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