Being part of the military presents its own unique set of challenges:
- Acquisition of hardware to develop and test software is difficult
- Budgets fluctuate so an elastic pay-for-use was desirable
- End user access had to be secure and meet government regulations
- It had to meet the technical aspects of scalable, elastic, dynamic, multi-tenant using shared resources
Using Cloud Computing simplifies provisioning, encourages the use of standards, and provides self-service. DISA has several solutions.
- Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE)
RACE is an internal private cloud with 24-hour provisioning for development and test requests, and 72 hour provisioning for production requests. The amount used is billed on a month-to-month basis, and offers a self-service portal so that developers and administrators can just pick and choose what they need. The result is a hosted server, similar to what you get from 1and1.com or GoDaddy.
- Global Content Delivery Service (GCDS)
This provides long-term storage of data. An internal version of "Cloud Storage" for archive and fixed content.
This provides a place to maintain source code, basically their internal version of "SourceForge" used by Open Source projects.
In their traditional approach, a software project would take six months to procure the hardware, another 6-12 months code and test, and then another 6 months in certification, for a total of 18-24 months. With the new Cloud Computing approach that DISA adopted, procurement was down to 24-72 hours with RACE, code test took only 2-6 months with Forge.Mil, and certification could be done in days on RACE, resulting in a new total of only 3-6 months. Some challenges they found:
- Service Level management and continuing the use of ITIL best practices
- Balancing Military-level Security with Self-service Usability
- Internal Funding and Chargeback, they had even adopted a way for developers to pay with their credit card
- Cultural inertia, developers don't like to change or do things in a different way
- Controlling expectations
Some lessons learned from this two-year experience:
- It's a journey. Most of the user experiences for cloud adoption took two or more years to complete
- Infrastructure Fundamentals continue to matter
- Know your "marketplace", in this case, software development for military applications
- Engage in your end-users early. In this case, Henry had wished he had involved input from software developers that would be using RACE, GCDS and Forge.MIL earlier in the process.
- Return on Value analysis, this is different than Return on Investment, as many of the benefits of cloud like higher morale are intangible at first
- Avoid fixed costs in negotiations with vendors. For example, he cited they use a lot of IBM because of IBM's pay-for-use billing model. They pay for MIPS used on IBM mainframes, and their IBM Tivoli software pricing is usage-based.