Jun 24 2014

The CIA Prepares to Launch Cloud Services

The spy agency will roll out private cloud offerings this summer for the IC.

All eyes are on the Central Intelligence Agency as it prepares to deploy initial cloud services this summer for the Intelligence Community.

The CIA officially awarded a $600 million contract to Amazon Web Services in October for the company to replicate its public cloud services inside of a private cloud for the IC, which includes 17 member agencies.

Agency CIO Douglas Wolfe said the CIA is testing the security of the commercial cloud offering against its internal standards, calling the process an “interesting sort of clash of cultures.” Speaking at the AWS Government, Education and Nonprofits Symposium on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Wolfe said the CIA has learned a lot about how security is implemented in public cloud environments and how it relates to the CIA’s approach to security.

“I think that we’re going to end up with a very good and quality product and a very secure product to handle all kinds of different workloads at the classified level in the intelligence community,” Wolfe said.

Initial Operating Capability in the Cloud

While cloud services will roll out this summer, Wolfe said it would take months longer to fully launch robust capabilities. Agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office plan to use the CIA’s cloud services for hosting applications but will use an offering provided by the National Security Agency’s government cloud to do analytic work.

The CIA’s cloud service is one of several offerings under the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) strategy, an initiative to improve information sharing and reduce costs by sharing IT resources across the IC.

Moving workloads and applications to the cloud in a secure and efficient way is paramount for the CIA and its contributions to ICITE. Wolfe noted that the agency is using a cost recovery model in which IC users only pay as they utilize products and services from the private cloud.

Fostering innovation across the IC

In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s investment arm, is helping to facilitate agency adoption of commercial technologies that can be modified to meet the IC’s needs.

The CIA expects its vendors will offer new and innovative solutions to the agency, as those products and services are made available to commercial customers, Wolfe said.

“I am determined that they will not only have the innovation on how do we spin up the servers and spin up the IT … but to start to bring the innovation from the commercial sector in terms of applications to the mission space,” he said.

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