Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Playing the Cloud Computing Wargame

Today at FOSE I tried my hand at balancing traditional IT, hybrid cloud offerings and commercial cloud offerings on a craps table. Just to set the scene, the Booz Allen Hamilton Cloud Computing Wargame pits multiple teams against each other in an effort to accumulate the most "mission value points". Each team, of about 5-7 people each, represents a government agency. During each round, the team builds a consensus on which IT capabilities should be built by using tokens that represent budget and staff investments.

In each round, agency tasks are addressed by building multiple IT capabilities and throwing dice to determine how various events, good and bad, affect operations. Accomplishing task leads to the receipt of mission value points and additional budget.

During FOSE, about 6 wargame sessions were held, with 30-50 people in each session divided into 4-6 agencies. In my session, I was teamed with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the Maryland Department of Corrections. In the first round, only traditional IT capabilities are available. After that, teams can continue to build traditional IT capabilities or choose to purchase capabilities from hybrid cloud resources. Later in the game, commercial cloud capabilities are also made available as investment options. Our team choose to invest early in hybrid cloud capabilities but leveraging the cloud was not a prerequisite for winning. In some sessions, the traditional IT approach won hands down.

In our session, the lead between the four agencies bounced back and forth. After building a strong cloud specialist staff, my agency effectively used hybrid cloud capabilities to mitigate various operational shortcomings. Even though we were caught with a "privacy issue violation" (which cost us some mission value points) and "performance issues" (which caused us to go over budget), in the end we were able to weather the storm and narrowly won the session.

While the wargame can in no way be used to predict or provide insight into if cloud computing is an appropriate option for any agency, it was effective in helping the players understand cloud computing as an operational option. I found it an excellent educational tool and would strongly recommend it for any agency looking into cloud computing.

If you or your agency are interested in arranging a private wargame session for your IT team, please contact me at .
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