Army Building Up Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

By Meredith Roaten
Raj Iyer, the Army’s chief information officer, shares the new 2022 cloud plan at AUSA.

Army photo

The Army is heavily investing more in its cyber capabilities, including an expanded cloud architecture developed through a combination of commercial and private platforms.

The overarching plan — released to the public in October — requires the Army to expand its cloud capabilities so that forces can use software applications wherever they are needed, said Raj Iyer, chief information officer for the service.

The need for creating a hybrid architecture — the overlapping usage of public and private clouds connected by a single network — becomes clear as the service looks to operationalize the cloud across different regions, he said. The service will need to move data rapidly to Indo-Pacific Command, Europe and even the tactical edge, he noted.

“We know that we’re going to do a combination of something that’s hybrid on premise some and then some commercial,” he said during the Association of the United States Army annual conference. “So it’s going to be both, but getting to the hybrid architecture is our key priority.”

A more flexible cloud is needed in Europe in particular, Iyer said. For the first time, the 18th Airborne Corps is using the cloud and Starlink — a satellite constellation operated by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX — in support of Ukraine.

“That has never happened before,” he said. “We’ve always relied on taking stacks and stacks of tactical server infrastructure when we deploy and relying heavily on military SATCOM,” he said. Connecting the networks and gaining access to a cloud takes days if not weeks, he added.

The Army’s vision for a global cloud environment, or cARMY, will create private clouds — extensions of commercial cloud resources and global transport capabilities — that will be connected to a data center.

The service will also create new commercial transportation networks outside the continental United States for data to travel through. Army software applications will migrate to the cloud so they are more accessible in regions where they are needed, according to the plan.

This infrastructure buildup “is critical to be able to provide data, services and capabilities to the tactical edge and achieve an information advantage for the warfighter,” the plan noted.

Expanding cloud capabilities also means changing the acquisition regime, Iyer said. Currently, commands that want to move to the cloud have to go through about a nine-month contracting process with multiple agencies.

“When money is tight — and it’s your execution money — if you have to wait for nine months, you’re already past that fiscal year and you’re now in a new fiscal year. You don’t have the money anymore,” Iyer said.

The Army’s new Enterprise Application Migration and Modernization contract — which will be established in the second or third quarter of fiscal year 2023 — will become “the easy button” for cloud migration, Iyer said.

“The intent here is four weeks to award a task on this contract,” he said.

Turning toward a hybrid cloud architecture is becoming a trend across the services, said Terry Halvorsen, general manager for the U.S. federal market at IBM.

“There’s more recognition that a single data fabric environment is not going to work,” he said. “You’re going to need a hybrid environment.”

Moving data is one of the priciest operations for the Pentagon, he said. It’s also not very efficient to move all data everywhere it’s needed.

“If I told you that for every [load of] groceries that you buy, you’re going to throw 75 percent of it away. Would you say you would be pretty upset? So that’s what we’re doing with data today,” he said.

In addition to integrating data onto a single network, automation will help lower the cost and increase efficiency for moving it. If fewer analysts are needed to process where and which data need to be moved, the cost and time needed is also reduced.

“More though — in defense — than the cost, it saves people because there’s not enough cyber analysts,” Halvorsen said.

At the Pentagon level, the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability program aims to bring all of the military’s cloud efforts under one umbrella. Google, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are involved in shaping the effort, and an award is expected in December, according to a Defense Department press release.

The Army can’t wait for the joint cloud, Iyer said. While the program will procure storage and computing cloud abilities from the major players, the Army still needs to be able to modernize its applications and migrate them to the cloud, he said.

“It’s very clear that we need both. We need better buying power through consolidation of our requirements,” he said.

“The Army has [Enterprise Application Modernization and Migration] today. We will look at JWCC as a potential opportunity to leverage that, but because it hasn’t been awarded yet, we don’t know what the rates are and what the discounts are.”


Topics: Cyber, Army News, Infotech

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