Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Navy NGEN and Cloud Computing

I spent half of today in downtown DC at the Navy Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) Industry Day.  In case you're not familiar with NGEN, this project will be the follow-on to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) and represents the Navy's first step towards achieving a future vision of a fully integrated Naval Networking Environment (NNE). NMCI itself is the world's largest intranet 700,000 accounts.

Among other things, not the least of which was a year-long program delay, RADM Bill Goodwin, NGEN Program manager, made it a point to highlight an interest in cloud computing. 

While on the surface this may seem pretty benign, I see this statement as a strong indicator of how fast cloud computing has made itself part of the DoD's IT procurement lexicon.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

An Ontology for Tactical Cloud Computing

This week I've had the pleasure of presenting at two fairly unique conferences.

On Tuesday I was in San Diego at the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization (SISO) Workshop. SISO is an international organization dedicated to the promotion of modeling and simulation (M&S) interoperability and reuse for the benefit of a broad range of M&S communities. SISO's Conference Committee organizes Simulation Interoperability Workshops (SIWs) in the US and Europe. SISO's Standards Activity Committee develops and supports simulation interoperability standards, both independently and in conjunction with other organizations. SISO is recognized as a Standards Development Organization (SDO) by NATO and as a Standards Sponsor by IEEE.

On Wednesday I was in Los Angeles at the Ground System Architecture Workshop (GSAW). Hosted by the Aerospace Corporation, GSAW provides a forum for the world's spacecraft ground system experts to collaborate with other ground system users, developers, and researchers through tutorials, presentations, working groups, and panel discussions on issues and solutions.

The common interest was of course cloud computing and both presentations focused on how to establish a common framework for developing cloud computing solutions. In both presentations, I introduced the cloud computing ontology first put forth by University of California and IBM.

In order to better adapt this excellent framework for my audience, I then presented my personal views on how this framework could be modified to address DoD, DHS and Intelligence
community requirements.

Key modifications include:
  • The addition of an access management layer
  • Explicit SOA related layers to address workflow orchestration, application security and service management
  • Explicit connectivity layer in order to avoid a common assumption that the public Internet is always used as the networking layer in cloud computing solutions

This approach seemed to enhance the conversation and interest so I'm now putting this out to the wider community for consideration.

Your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Federal Cloud Computing Roadmap

ServerVault, a long time provider of IT hosting services to the Federal government, has been discussing cloud computing quite a bit with their current (and future) customers.  The repetitive nature of the many varied conversations led John Curan, ServerVault EVP, COO and CTO, to put together a standard briefing on the subject. His "Federal Cloud Computing Roadmap" puts forth a possible answer to:

"What set of actions by the cloud computing industry (and related parties) would allow Federal agencies to gain the benefits of cloud computing while maintaining compliance with Federal IT policy?"

By referencing FISMA, OMB guidance and FIPS Publication 199, he clearly lays out the Federal CIO's dilemma when it comes to cloud computing.  It a good read and is probably very similar to the process that NIST is currently going through as they draft their Cloud Computing Security Publication. NIST's Perspectives on Cloud Computing and Standards should make your reading list as well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Booz Allen Hamilton Lays Out Path To Cloud

Now that cloud computing is seen as a viable technology for the government marketplace, management consulting leader Booz Allen Hamilton is now providing cloud transition guidance. In his article "Cloud Computing: A Transition Methodology", BAH Principal Rod Fontecilla offers a two phased approach for those interested in exploring this option.

Cloud Strategy and Planning phase (Phase 1)
  • 1. Conduct a Strategic Diagnostic

  • 2. Define a Cloud Strategy

  • 3. Create an Implementation

Plan Cloud Deployment phase (Phase 2)

  • 1. Assess/Select the Cloud Provider(s)

  • 2. Establish Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

  • 3. Execute Transition

  • 4. O&M and Help Desk
BAH seems to have really embraced cloud computing as a viable strategy for their government customers. To me this seems to be yet another milepost on the road to widespread acceptance of cloud computing by the Federal government. If a trusted Federal advisor like BAH can see clear answers to all the "cloud computing risks" (i.e. security, legal, economic, etc.), my confidence in this government cloud computing niche seems to be well founded.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is Sun Rising or Setting?

Today was strange.

First Sun announces it's open cloud computing platform.

Sun Unveils Open Cloud Computing Platform

"Sun on Wednesday announced plans to offer its own Open Cloud Platform, starting with server and storage services aimed at developers who need an extended platformto produce a new application.

Sun expects to have cloud servers and storage available to customers by "this summer," where customers will run applications under Windows, Solaris or Linux in Sun VirtualBox virtual machines. Open Cloud Platform will compete with Amazon(NSDQ: AMZN).com's Elastic Compute Cloud and S3 storage services."

Then ...

IBM in Talks to Buy Sun in Bid to Add to Web Heft

"International Business Machines Corp. is in talks to buy Sun Microsystems Inc., people familiar with the matter said, a combination that would bolster IBM's heft on the Internet, in software and in finance and telecommunications markets.

The two companies have a common interest in that both make computer systems for corporate customers that aren't reliant on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software, and their product lines are less dependant than rivals' on Intel Corp.'s microprocessor technologies. The two companies are also strong supporters of open-source Linux and Java software."

All I can say is stay tuned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Conversation with Emil Sayegh, Mosso General Manager

Last week, Mosso announced their new "Cloud Server" and "Cloud Sites" offerings. They also exited "Cloud Files" from beta, positioning themselves as a challenger to Amazon. With this as a background, I welcomed their invitation to speak with General Manager Emil Sayegh.

Early in the conversation, I asked Emil to explain Mosso's advantage over Amazon's offerings. "The major advantage of Cloud Server over EC2 is that our server instances are persistent, not ephemeral."

Mosso is generally well known as the cloud hosting division of Rackspace. Recently however, the division has embraced the Rackspace name in thier branding. According to Emil, this was done in order to signal that Mosso will be more aggressively leveraging dedicated hosting offerings with their cloud services. This dual approach was apparently key to the company's ability to offer a PCI compliant cloud service. PCI compliance is required in order to prcess redit cards. Since the cloud and traditional hosting infrastructures are "under the same roof", Mosso is able to meet stringent security requirements by shifting from the cloud to the hosting infrastructure as PCI compliance needs dictated.

After these initial exchanges, I focused the discussion on Mosso's plans in the Federal marketplace. Mosso states that although they currently have federal customers using their cloud services, the company is restricted from identifying specific agencies. Since my focus has generally been on the use of cloud computing for operational functions, I was anxious to find out what functions were being deployed to the cloud. "Today our Federal customers are using our services for brochure and campaign sites because of security concerns. A handful of agencies are also testing Cloud Files", according to Emil.

Although Mosso's current customer's have strictly limited their use of the cloud, this conversation shows that many agencies are quietly testing the cloud computing waters. If the new administration gets serious about leveraging the cloud, I'm sure that operational uses are not far in the future.

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 kevin.jackson@dataline.com .

Monday, March 9, 2009

Vivek Kundra Nominated for Federal CIO

Mr. Kundra's quote from the Wall Street Journal says it all:

“I’m a big believer in disruptive technology. If I went to the coffee shop, I would have more computing power than the police department. Consumers had better technology than the government did. I’m all about the cloud computing notion. I look at my lifestyle, and I want access to information wherever I am. I am killing projects that don’t investigate software as a service first.”

For some more insight, please read the excellent and timely interview by Bob Gourley

Thursday, March 5, 2009

7th SOA for E-Government Conference

On April 28, 2009, Mitre will be holding its biannual SOA for E-Government Conference. This conference is one of the region's premier opportunity for federal managers and MITRE Subject Matter Experts to network with fellow technology and business leaders. This edition will focus on the development of practical approaches to initiating and utilizing SOA across the government. The agenda includes:
  • Mr. John Shea, DoD Office of the CIO, IP&I - Title: SOA – Where is the Federal Government Now?
  • Dave Mayo, IAC EA-SIG and Everware-CBDI - Title: Government Transformation: Service Oriented Government
  • Ajay Budhraja, Deputy CIO, U.S. Department of Labor - Title: Enterprise SOA Strategy, Planning and Operations with Agile Techniques, Virtualization and Cloud Computing
  • Teri Li Hoffman-Boswell (MITRE) and Dr. Glen White (DoD) Chief Engineer, Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES), DISA - Title: Delivering Core Enterprise Services to the DoD and IC Communities
  • H. Kong and I. Chang (MITRE) - Title: AF SOA ESB C4I Integration Case Study
  • Michael Clark, CIV, GCSS-AF Outreach; Harvey Reed (MITRE) - Title: Global Combat Support Systems-Air Force: Foundations of an SOE
  • Sharon Orser Jackson (MITRE) and Captain Edward Wagner - Title: DCGS SOA Case Study
  • Dr. Mohamed Hussein (MITRE) - Title: Evolutionary Strategies for the Development of a SOA-Enabled USMC Enterprise
This event is open to government personnel and contractors. Registration is required (http://www.mitre.org/register/soa/) and is limited to 250 people attending in person.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Strategies And Technologies for Cloud Computing Interoperability (SATCCI)

As I alluded to in an earlier post, a major cloud computing interoperability event will be held in conjunction with the Object Management Group (OMG) March Technical Meeting on March 23, 2009, Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, VA, USA.

An all day workshop entitled "Strategies And Technologies for Cloud Computing Interoperability (SATCCI)" to be held in order to provide leaders in the Federal computing community with an overview of Cloud Interoperability/Portability issues and possible solutions. The Workshop will increase the attendees understanding of this area, will encourage ongoing participation from attendee organizations, and gather feedback on future requirements for open Cloud Computing deployments. This feedback can help guide future Cloud Computing standardization organization deliverables.

Many groups working on cloud interoperability and portability have been invited to attend, including:

A clear motivation for the SATCCI Workshop is the expectation that the new administration will be taking a critical look at using cloud computing as part of it's efforts to improve government transparency.

The SATCCI organizers will be inviting representatives of major Federal computing organizations to attend and participate in making this a practical, productive, and timely Workshop. To register for this Special Event, go to http://www.omg.org/registration/dc/

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Government Cloud Computing E-zine Launched

Today marks the launch of a new electronic magazine dedicated to addressing cloud computing within the government space. Over the last year during my personal exploration of this marketspace, I've noticed a great need for focused dialog. As editor of Government Cloud Computing, my goal is to provide a platform for focused education and informed dialog.

Our slogan, "Cloud Computing for Government Efficiency and Transparency", also represents our mission. Please help us in the execution of our mission by providing your comments, articles and suggestions.

Please visit us at govcloud.ulitzer.com and join the conversation.

Monday, March 2, 2009

NCOIC Plenary: Cloud Computing Working Group

Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in the NCOIC Cloud Computing Working Group. Led by Cisco Systems Distinguished Engineer, Mr. Krishna Sankar of Cisco Systems, the meeting purpose was to decide if the NCOIC would officially organize a focus on cloud computing. As Terry Morgan, the current NCOIC Chairman would put it, a decision to organize would formalize an effort to define cloud computing's place in the netcentric ecosystem.

I'm happy to report a decision to move forward with an Adhoc Working Group. The group would focus on the technical, operational and business requirements of a "federal-grade" cloud infrastructure. The initial draft charter outlines the following goals:
  • Develop collateral on the current "state of the union" of the cloud computing domain,

  • Document best practices, architectures and blueprints

  • Explore the effect of the cloud computing paradigm to NCOIC deliverables (i.e. NIF, NCAT, et al)

  • Work on pragmatic cloud projects that would enhance current NCOIC deliverables

The group also agreed to participate in two near-term events:

I personally look forward to working with this new team and welcome my readers to provide recommendations or suggestions.