Ammu Irivinti, MITRE senior systems engineer, standing, speaks with, from left to right, Capt. Devon Messecar, System Engineering Integration Contract II program manager, Steve Harrison, MITRE Advanced Development lead, and Dave Parker, deputy PM, at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., on Nov. 13, 2015, regarding the use of Hanscom MilCloud to improve mission planning.

Air Force Speeds Ahead on Cloud Migration

The service branch is pushing more of its applications to the Defense Information Systems Agency’s milCloud 2.0 platform.

JEDI is not the only Defense Department cloud game in town.

While there is an intense amount of focus on the fate of the DOD’s massive Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract, DOD components are moving ahead with other cloud migration efforts.

In September, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan established the Cloud Executive Steering Group to devise and oversee the execution of a strategy to accelerate DOD’s cloud adoption, focusing on commercial solutions. However, with the delay of the JEDI contract, the Air Force is plowing ahead with cloud migration efforts of its own.

The service branch is moving applications not just to off-premises cloud environments but also the Defense Information Systems Agency’s milCloud 2.0 platform, according to Federal News Radio. The efforts suggest that while the JEDI contract is in limbo and bids are prepared for the similarly gargantuan Defense Enterprise Office Solutions cloud contract, some DOD components are doing the quiet but important work of moving ahead with cloud migrations.

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Air Force Finds MilCloud 2.0 to Be a Great Fit

In 2013, the Air Force created a managed services office to serve as cloud broker for the service branch. The office, operating from Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, is discovering that milCloud 2.0 may be the best destination for more apps than it initially anticipated, Mark Bacon, the acquisition program manager leading the effort, tells Federal News Radio.

“Frankly, at first we were wondering why the DOD would try to match what the private sector has already invested in cloud technology and data centers around the world,” he says. “But then we started to see, as we talked to the contractors that are setting up milCloud, and also On-site Managed Services, that they might prove to be a good environment.”

As DISA notes, milCloud is an Infrastructure as a Service solution that uses a combination of mature commercial off-the-shelf technology and solutions developed by the government to deliver cloud services tailored to the needs of the DOD.

In March, milCloud 2.0 achieved its provisional authority to operate for Impact Level 5 data — DOD’s highest unclassified level — and the platform is expected to achieve Impact Level 6 accreditation toward the end of the year or in early 2019, Nextgov reports.

DISA has also noted a higher-than-expected level of interest in milCloud 2.0. “We are looking at probably 2-3-4 times the increase of volume than we originally anticipated right off the bat, which is a good news thing. It shows there is a lot of demand for cloud capabilities inside the department,” John Hale, DISA’s chief of enterprise applications, said at the FCW Cloud Summit on April 18, according to Federal News Radio. “I think a lot of mission partners see milCloud 2 as a gateway capability. As they shift away from traditional hosting in their data centers into a cloud model, milCloud 2 provides them a little bit of a comfort factor because the data stays on premise.”

Meanwhile, Bacon’s office is using existing contract vehicles to help migrate some Air Force apps to offsite commercial cloud services, including Microsoft’s Azure.

However, Federal News Radio reports, the cloud transition office has determined that milCloud might be a better fit for some apps than commercial cloud offerings, especially those that were not created as cloud-native apps. The same is true for apps that need constant data connections to other apps inside DOD military networks.

“Take our enterprise resource planning programs, which are huge software suites that do a lot of different business processes,” Bacon says. “Since we have the DOD offering this commercial cloud pricing model now, which should save us some money, there are some large software suites that might be good to host in milCloud indefinitely, and maybe never put them in a commercial cloud.”

MilCloud is also a solid option for legacy Air Force apps that are not yet ready to be deployed in commercial cloud environments, according to Bacon. “For some of our really old apps and services that need to rely on legacy support services, milCloud might serve as a way station,” he tells Federal News Radio. “We can put them there until the app owners figure out how to translate them into something that will work in … a genuine commercial cloud.”

Photography by Linda LaBonte Britt, U.S. Air Force
Jun 26 2018