DISA expanding scope, price tag of MilCloud 2.0

The  Defense Information Systems Agency is tripling the contract time and quintupling the financial ceiling for the replacement of its government-operated MilCloud service.

John Hale, chief of DISA’s cloud portfolio, said the expansion of the request for proposals for MilCloud 2.0 is based on hundreds of vendor comments, as well as various Defense Department directives, such as data center consolidation.

“With data center consolidation, we expect more workload to leverage the MilCloud environment than we had originally anticipated,” Hale said. “The overall period was extended and the overall contract ceiling was extended to handle the additional workload.”

The base period was originally a one-year term with multiple one-year awards. It was changed to a three-year base period with some follow-on awards, Hale said during an Aug.10 cloud summit presented by Federal Computer Week (FCW) in Washington.

The ceiling was originally at $92 million and is now at $498 million.

“That was based on the extended period of the contract and additional work units that we put in the contract, so that mission partners, the commercial cloud providers, can recoup their initial investment,” Hale said.

DISA unveiled the MilCloud RFP in February. The RFP closes Aug. 22. Hale said the plan is for initial operating capability to be available next March or April.

 “MilCloud 2.0 is an opportunity for us to basically outsource the entire architecture to a commercial  provider,” Hale said. “The idea is we’re going to bring a commercial cloud provider on premise, we’re going to deliver them ping, pad and power and they’re going to run cloud services from our concrete and deliver services to the rest of the department.”

Existing MilCloud 1.0 users can stay where they are, Hale said, but they do have the option of migrating over. After a year or two of MilCloud 2.0, however, all those users will be transitioned to the newer service.

Hale said the cost savings will likely drive more users to move to MilCloud 2.0.

“Right now, there’s a rate for consuming a compute unit with MilCloud 1.0,” he said. “We expect that rate for 2.0 to be considerably less because it’s being provided by a commercial provider versus a government provider.”

Biggest bang for the buck

MilCloud 2.0 is part of DoD’s three-pronged approach to cloud computing, which is comprised of off-premise commercial cloud service, on premise commercial cloud service and traditional computing.

“Traditional compute, going forward, is still going to exist,” Hale said. “On premise commercial cloud, or on premise private cloud is something necessary in order for certain types of data to live and reside and to function. And number three is leverage off-premise commercial cloud as much as possible and leverage that secret sauce that those providers give you because that’s where your biggest bang for your buck is going to be.”

The cloud is not the savior for everything, Hale told the summit’s audience. Many in the Defense Department see cloud as a “lift and shift solution,” he said, but cloud doesn’t work that way.

“You have to start leveraging the capabilities available to you inherently in the cloud environment,” Hale said, adding that locking in a particular vendor’s application programming interface (API) might sound frightening, but it can be used to one’s advantage.

“My answer to that is do it, “Hale said. “The biggest savings you’re going to get is by leveraging those APIs, that secret sauce that’s provided by those commercial providers. Lock yourself into that provider. It’s only going to be for that period of the contract. If you move to another provider at a later date, they’re going to offer competing capabilities and it’s not going to be that hard to move your application.”

The notion that the cloud is not a silver bullet was also shared by Defense Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen.

“I think the word cloud has come to mean way too many different things to too many people, and to some people it’s become: You have a problem, cloud,” Halvorsen said. “It’s gotten to the point where cloud has become the answer for everything, and I think it has a lot of potential, but I also think cloud is a tool in the tool bag.”

Halvorsen said Defense is in a unique balancing act because it is the biggest IT user and buyer, and while it needs security to accomplish its mission, “perfect security” likely means the mission isn’t being accomplished.

What that comes down to is understanding your data.

“Maybe that’s the theme for today,” Halvorsen said. “If you don’t understand your data, you don’t know where to put it or what to do with it.”

That’s where cloud — or “distributed compute,” according to Halvorsen — can help.

“I do think distributed compute is the way to go, and it’s not just … for stuff you already have,” Halvorsen said. “I do think one of the most powerful things the cloud can do is give you a dev-ops environment. In some ways the cloud, or distributed compute, is truly democratizing high-end compute and dev-ops. You can go buy it and you can buy it and that price is going to continue to come down. As you look at distributed compute and cloud, what you’re also seeing is people deciding what pieces of IT business they need to stay in, if any. We are going to look as we go to buy, change the way we buy, I want us to be procuring more services in IT, and not doing the owning and equipping.”

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