July 8, 2013

Amazon-CIA Cloud Deal Finalized

Ian Armas Foster

It’s official, Amazon will be working with the CIA to host some of their computing and data on secure servers. A few months ago, HPC in the Cloud reported on Amazon’s 10-year, $600 million with the CIA to provide cloud services. However, the deal was held up by a complaint lodged by IBM, who lost out on the contract.

This decision by the CIA to implement a cloud computing strategy in the first place is a part of the government’s Cloud-First initiative, their effort to reduce costs in computing.

The interesting aspect here is what the CIA plans to do with Amazon’s hosted services. On the one hand, they could simply be using Amazon’s clusters for burst capacity in the case of something like a national security emergency. While national security is a use case specific to the CIA, burst computing capacity is fairly common among those using

On the other hand, it looks like the CIA is looking to run dedicated cloud applications in the Amazon system, and the 10-year, $600 million deal would lean toward something of that magnitude.

Either way, for an organization that is as protective of its information as the CIA needs to be, hosting their data will surely prove to be a unique security challenge. Considering that Amazon beat out government tech stalwart IBM for the contract, the CIA must have some assurances that Amazon will rise to those security challenges. Indeed, after the IBM protest of the deal to the General Accounting Office, the GAO responded that Amazon simply offered the “superior technical solution.”

In fact, it has even been suggested that Amazon is to go so far as to build a private cloud housed inside the CIA’s existing datacenters. Such supposition is prompted by this statement provided by the GAO in its explanation over the IBM matter, “The contractor generally was to provide a copy of its existing public cloud (modified where necessary) to be installed on government premises.”

Whether that private datacenter happens or if Amazon is simply hosting CIA applications and data or burst capacity, the deal between the two will be one to follow.

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