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The intelligence community evaluates the potential of cloud computing and its benefits.
Given the momentum behind cloud computing across so many industries, it is not surprising that the intelligence community (IC) is evaluating its potential and looking to capitalize on its benefits. In the current environment, IC CIOs are continually being asked to do more to help advance mission capabilities while reducing IT operational costs. They are constrained by legacy platforms and often faced with a patchwork of architectures and persistent unit autonomy, an environment where information sharing is difficult and IT maintenance costs continue to rise. This extra cost includes resources that could otherwise be invested in growth and innovation of mission components.
To address these challenges, CIOs can employ technologies that enable IT organizations to consolidate and standardize data centers in “cloud solution” environments. While cloud computing promises to deliver a wide and powerful range of capabilities, this technology’s relative lack of settled infrastructure, operating models and ever-growing list of service providers makes it difficult to evaluate its longer-term costs and risks. Each cloud solution strategy can come with its own set of challenges. Consolidation places additional pressures on data center facilities, including the increased continuity risk that goes hand-in-hand with centralization. Virtualization requires service-level policies that are often not easily implemented. In addition, organizations often greatly underestimate the complexity of migrating legacy applications and platforms to virtualized environments.
As IC CIOs seek to balance the sometimes competing forces of optimizing costs and creating value, they will require a holistic approach to build a high-performing, service-oriented infrastructure that can exploit the benefits that cloud solutions can provide.
At their core, cloud solutions are an established set of infrastructure technology resources and services that are made available to consumers via several possible deployment models. These models are:
Private cloud —The cloud infrastructure is operated solely for an organization. It may be managed by the organization or a third party and may exist on premises or off premises.
Community cloud—The cloud infrastructure is shared by several organizations and supports a specific community that has shared concerns. It may be managed by the organizations or a third party and may exist on premises or off premises.
Public cloud—The cloud infrastructure is made available to the general public or a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling cloud services.
Hybrid cloud—The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds, for example).
Cloud solutions can provide an array of services that are driven by the consumer community which they serve. These service models include infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). Each successive model provides an increasingly greater amount of standardized services and resources to the consumer.
The effective adoption of a cloud solution in the intelligence community (at an agency or community-wide level) requires a number of technology and operational considerations be evaluated and defined prior to implementation.
While most of these considerations are the same as those in the commercial space, there are also considerations unique to the IC:
Security—Refers to all of the various technical security elements that will minimize the risk in a cloud solution. Public clouds are open, shared environments which carry a greater inherent security risk and have less relevance to the IC except for unclassified components. A private cloud solution affords greater control and provides greater security measures.
Certification & Accreditation—The requirements that outline C&A parameters for systems on community networks must be evaluated when designing a cloud solution that potentially provides automated provisioning. Systems that are auto-provisioned on a community network must still adhere to C&A guidelines. The mechanism to accomplish this must be established as part of the solution design.
Compliance—The requirement to comply with various regulations may dictate the type of cloud solution as well as specific implementation requirements.
Governance—Refers to the controls and processes that make sure policies are enforced. Governance is especially relevant in a community cloud setting which extends across multiple agencies that have different implementation and usage expectations.
Classifications—The DoD classification levels are based on the sensitivity of the associated information. The requirement to maintain separation of different information classifications must be included in a cloud solution and may lead to multiple clouds, one for each classification level to be supported.
Sustainability—Refers to the carbon footprint of the cloud solution infrastructure. This can be achieved through a number of approaches including improved resource utilization and efficient processes.
Legal—The use of public cloud services may have legal restrictions for certain functions.
Open source—Public cloud is based on open standards and software, so significant review is necessary before adopting certain public cloud offerings. Within a private cloud, the provider can limit open source depending on other considerations for the cloud solution.
Interoperability—The ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort by the administrators. Interoperability increases importance as the infrastructure and overall environments increase their levels of standardization.
Open standards—The cloud solution providers can use a mixed set of APIs, with interoperability to be assessed before adoption.
Service levels—Service level agreements between the cloud provider and consumer of cloud services must be assessed. This can include elements such as availability, backup, security and privacy.
Privacy—Cloud solutions are based on a shared environment, so any privacy requirements have to be validated and addressed in the implementation.
Portability—The ability to move components or systems between environments. The type of services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) provided can directly influence the portability of systems. This would apply within a given classification level, but not across classifications.
The cloud market is maturing rapidly with differing services converging as standard practices. This environment requires access to a standard set of proven solutions and related capabilities focused on implementation and management of cloud services. Accenture has established a cloud practice that leverages our management consulting, technology and services delivery experience with infrastructure, platform, application and business process engagements in the public and private sectors.
Accenture’s integrated consulting and technical capabilities provide a spectrum of services across all types of cloud services. Accenture’s Cloud Services group helps customers to think about the big picture—the essence of their mission as well as associated budgetary and business requirements. This is a focus on not only the new technologies that are becoming available, but also those that are right for their organization. Accenture is a technology-agnostic service provider with no predetermined list of preferred technology products. We can help organizations understand how new technologies will impact their operations and create the ability for growth.
What is the Path to a Cloud Solution?Accenture uses an ecosystem of industry partners to provide public IaaS in the commercial space. These include: Buying Computing Time, Amazon EC2, vCloud, and IBM Blue Cloud. In specific instances, Accenture has built out on premises and off premises private IaaS solutions for our clients. We also tailor our methodology toward creation of private and community cloud environments for the federal government. Accenture provides cloud services in the IC, and we can share lessons learned that should be taken into account by other agencies.
Accenture’s vision for the cloud transformational journey focuses not only on the data center, but also across all infrastructure capabilities: compute, storage, network, operations, security and workplace technologies. A three-phase transformation model can help organizations move seamlessly from a reactive enterprise to a predictive, service-oriented, cloud-based architecture:
Phase 1: Standardization and Consolidation—The first phase on the cloud transformation journey is to standardize and consolidate the myriad of hardware and software platforms across the organization, along with the processes for managing the IT infrastructure. The goal is to reduce the number of variants to simplify the infrastructure, reduce costs and streamline support and maintenance activities. Organizations can also use this phase to begin moving from physical to virtual resources to further consolidate IT assets.
Phase 2: Integration and Automation—This phase involves the integration of operations, infrastructure management and service management tools around a set of common configurations and a central management database. In addition to infrastructure and tools integration, this step develops a wide range of automation that includes: IT process automation (linking the service and support catalog to automated service fulfillment); technology automation (creating an initial workflow for infrastructure provisioning to reduce turnaround times); optimization (using infrastructure provisioning techniques to enable rapid purposing and repurposing of pooled resources); and self-provisioning (replacing human-centric processes with infrastructure-based provisioning techniques).
Phase 3: Tools Instrumentation—This phase enhances management toolsets for provisioning and monitoring capabilities and provides for metering and associated billing for managed cloud services. This is also the phase for maturity of federated dashboard capability that provides a consolidated view into infrastructure operations, resource utilization and management of capacity to allow for future demand.
Accenture Has Implemented Cloud in the Intelligence CommunityAccenture is the logical choice when it comes to helping the IC establish next generation infrastructure and cloud solutions that will enable high performance. We have successfully helped implement next-generation infrastructure and data center solutions at numerous Fortune 500 companies. We have structured our offerings for intelligence agencies based on the success we have demonstrated commercially. We have also delivered these offerings on multiple classification levels within the IC.
Accenture offers capabilities tailored to the intelligence community—commercially proven offerings that are supported by proven processes and business practices. We make full use of both commercial and federal government cloud implementation experience in developing our solutions, and we stand ready to apply these methodologies to the unique information challenges of the intelligence community.
January 17, 2012
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