Public, private, MilCloud: DISA tool makes the cloud decision easier

The Pentagon's chief information officer's office spearheaded the development of the ITSA tool as part of its data center consolidation effort.

For many agencies, the decision to move applications or services to the cloud is the easy part. The decision about which kind of cloud to use, and really develop a path is much more difficult.

This is why the Defense Information Systems Agency and the DoD’s chief information officer developed a new tool to make the decision process easier.

“We spend lot of time with mission partners every day, informing them, teaching them and working with them. We’ve developed an online tool which we are deploying as part of cloud capabilities,” said John Hale, DISA’s chief of enterprise applications, at the FCW Cloud Summit on April 18. “Mission partners will be able to go in and lay out their requirements in the online tool and it will indicate what the best option for them is for their particular workload. It’s not a one size fits all.”

The path may include DISA’s MilCloud offering as well as other potential public and private cloud options.

The ITSA tool will help services or mission areas consider whether going solely commercial makes sense or if moving more to the MilCloud environment is better.

“You put in your requirements and how your application works, what kind of legacy systems your application interfaces with, and it spits out suggestions,” Hale said. “And they are just suggestions. It still requires you to do that app rationalization and make sure the suggestion the tool kicked out is the right thing for your particular use case.”

He said then the user can develop a business case using the ITSA suggestions and determine the right place for that system.

DISA launched MilCloud 1.0 in 2013 and awarded CSRA, which General Dynamics IT recently bought, a $500 million, eight-year contract to run MilCloud 2.0 in June 2017.

Hale said DISA continues to bring new customers onto MilCloud 1.0 and has just started to bring new partners into MilCloud 2.0 now that it has received its provisional authority to operate.

But Hale said DISA is an “honest broker” when it comes to which cloud makes sense for DoD customers.

“I’m trying to make sure they can complete their mission,” he said. “With our secure cloud computing architecture, we are putting in direct connectivity into all the major cloud providers so that we can move our workloads into those environments without necessarily traversing the open Internet. We are trying to provide as many options as possible to mission partners.”

The cloud infrastructure team and the cloud security team both report to Hale and he manages both teams in order to ensure the warfighter has access to the data they need, when they need it.

The DoD CIO’s office created the ITSA tool as part of its data center consolidation effort.

The Office of Management and Budget reports in its data center consolidation and optimization dashboard that DoD has closed 202 non-tiered and 79 tiered data centers out of a total of more than 3,000.

Hale said he expects the ITSA tool to be online for use by anyone across the DoD in the very near future.

Hale said DISA will conduct outreach and educate program managers, CIOs and chief technology officers of the mission areas to make sure they know what tools are available.

“We hammer home app rationalization right now. That tends to be the long-pole in the tent,” he said. “We talk about moving applications to the cloud is easy when they are cloud ready. But how do you take that traditional application that is 10-years-old and ensure it’s cloud ready? That takes a lot of work upfront. Having the tools to pick the right cloud provider is one part of the equation, but doing the app rationalization and getting the apps ready to move is a bigger part of the equation.”

Hale said DISA is working with the services on application rationalization. He said some organizations like U.S. Transportation Command seems to be ahead of the pack, while others are still coming up to speed.

“The app rationalization stage is really the most critical part, and it’s the least glamorous. It’s the one where you have to go and dig in and look at how each individual application is designed, architected, engineered and how it’s running. Then look at those and make hard decisions,” he said. “It’s probably the one thing most mission partners  struggle with on a daily basis on how you do that. We look for industry to help us. A lot of contractors specialize with app rationalization.”

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