How and why the military should adopt the cloud

The DoD could run more effectively using cloud technologies -- and show other large organizations how it should be done

At the Association for Enterprise Information (AFEI) 2010 DoD Enterprise Architecture Conference this week, I gave the keynote presentation on (what else?) cloud computing -- specifically, how it should work within Department of Defense. The DoD is the poster child for organizations that should be using the cloud, but it must first overcome several issues -- and not just technical ones.

The challenge here is to present yet another new, hype-driven concept and sell it within the context of the existing billions of dollars of IT projects that are under way for the U.S. military. No doubt, everyone in DoD IT has heard of cloud computing, but few understand how it could work within their problem domains and support their missions.

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The fact of the matter is that the focus has generally been on the mission first, and IT planning and architecture second. So what you get  -- and what the DoD, like many large organizations, has -- are thousands of mission systems, with no real idea of how they all work and play together, supporting the larger mission. Moreover, the one-system-one-application approach to IT used by so many organizations such as the DoD means that inefficiencies are designed in from the start.

Cloud computing would bring real advantages to the DoD. For example, the DoD has been asked to tighten its belt, such as by consolidating data centers. The cloud can help there. Also, there's an understanding that agility is now an essential attribute needed to quickly to align to mission changes; that's a very important concept, considering the events of the last 10 years. The cloud can help there, too.

In a key way, the DoD is well-positioned to take advantage of cloud computing, unlike many organizations. It has done a much better job of adopting SOA than the rest of the government, so many of its existing systems are already treated as sets of services. This allows the DoD to mix and match services on platforms that are best for those services: public clouds, private clouds, or traditional systems.

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