DoD Looking to Realize the Promise of Cloud

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The Department of Defense (DoD) is looking to move from cloud adoption to optimizing and enabling the full promise of cloud computing within the Pentagon, said Peter Ranks, deputy CIO for information enterprise at DoD.

Ranks, speaking at the Professional Services Council’s Vision conference today, noted that the department has pockets of excellence on cloud, but hasn’t yet brought those capabilities to bear across the entire enterprise.

“We have spent, in the last year, half a billion dollars and we’ll spend another half a billion dollars next year across a whole bunch of contracts. Yet with all that investment and energy, we haven’t really realized the big promises of cloud computing in a meaningful way across the department,” said Ranks.

He said noted programs that have succeeded thus far have typically had engaged developers or executive support, but that hasn’t happened across the department. The challenges of connecting to the cloud and developing in the cloud are also drawing a range of responses from different agency components, all of which are challenges that DoD’s Enterprise Cloud Strategy aims to address.

While Ranks did not address the recent JEDI contract award directly, he touched on the department’s need for more than just acquisition.

“We have fooled ourselves into thinking that if we can just hire the cloud provider, it will solve all those problems. Hiring the cloud provider wasn’t supposed to be the hard part,” he said. “Like any other weapons system, mastery of the weapons system is really where the challenge comes in,” he added.

Ranks emphasized the importance of speed through cloud computing as the department’s main goal over cost savings, and stressed the need for processes like acquisition and implementation to adapt with cloud.

“If we get modern cloud infrastructure but don’t modernize the way we build software, we will not achieve the promises of cloud computing,” he noted. “We want software capabilities in the hands of warfighters faster. We want software that can adjust to changing requirements or the changing dynamics of the battlefield more quickly. That is what’s driving our cloud strategy,” he said.

Amid the reforms at the department, Ranks noted that his office is pushing for more agile deployments of software, better acquisition policies, better budgeting flexibility, and making sure the upcoming Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification does not stand as an obstacle to cloud.

Ranks also emphasized the multi-cloud nature of the agency’s strategy, and the need for both general purpose cloud like JEDI and fit-for-use cloud like milCloud 2.0.

“DoD’s problem has not been hiring a cloud provider. We have hired a lot of cloud providers … we have one of everything and more than one of most things,” he noted.

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