DISA CIO: Cloud Computing ‘Something We Absolutely Have to Do’

By Derrick Harris

October 20, 2008

Cloud computing has its share of naysayers, no doubt, but John Garing is not among them.

Garing, CIO of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), believes cloud computing will be a driving force in the Department of Defense (DoD). In fact, Garing says that although he shares some of the concerns espoused by the IT media (such as the danger of hosting multiple applications on a single platform), he, personally, is more than optimistic, calling cloud computing “something we absolutely have to do.”

“We have seen what … Amazon [and] Google have done, and it seems to us that there is a need for that,” he explains. “For example, if you deploy a force somewhere in the world for disaster relief … or a special operations team, they ought to be able to connect to the network like you or I can from home, and bring together or compose … the services and information they need for what they’re doing at that particular place and time, rather than have to connect to a bunch of applications.”

Step 1: RACE

The first step in this journey kicked off on Oct. 14, when DISA’s RACE (Rapid Access Computing Environment) infrastructure went live. RACE is a shared services cloud that gives DISA customers on-demand, self-service access to developmental testing resources. Although RACE is located entirely within DISA’s walls, customers still get the public cloud experience with a Web portal, 24-hour-a-day availability, a service catalog and a credit card payment option. RACE supports applications built on either the LAMP or Windows stacks.

Like most cloud computing initiatives, efficiency and cost-savings were big drivers of RACE. Garing says the ability for users to compose services in minutes and pay for the testing infrastructure only as they use it is a better option than the “elaborate process” of writing a funding document, doing an interdepartmental requisition for funds transferred and so on. A week ago, he saw someone experimenting on RACE provision a Web site and do the funds transfer in only 7 minutes. “That’s pretty impressive for the Department of Defense, or the federal government,” he jokes. “Seven months would be more like it.”

In terms of cost, Garing believes the cloud model must be “a whole lot cheaper than the way we do business traditionally” because it helps avoid a large capital investment. The old acquisition model includes over-provisioning infrastructure for each application to meet uncertain demand, resulting in untold quantities of idle resources. Additionally, Garing says, DISA has a full cost recovery policy for IT expenditures. With a five-year straight-line depreciation period and two-year average contracts, DISA’s users do not have much time to recover their costs. With RACE, however, all they have to do is turn resources on and off in DISA’s datacenters.

Alfred Rivera, director of computing services for DISA, says the foundation of RACE is the agency’s capacity on demand initiative. The physical resources for RACE are located in DISA’s datacenters, but it has entered into contracts with various vendors to buy capacity “by the drink,” with the vendors retaining capital ownership of the boxes. He elaborated that this is a “joint capacity” relationship where DISA manages capacity utilization in support of its customers, and the vendors ensure DISA has the capacity to meet its growth demands.

For now, the processing contracts for RACE belong to HP, Sun, ViON and Apptis, with ViON also winning the storage contract.

A second-order effect of the cloud initiative, says Rivera, is the ability to put in place a standard, homogenous architecture, which further reduces costs and complexity. Garing says the traditional procedure is that customers go to Rivera’s Computing Services Directorate to host their applications, and are charged for the services they want. However, he added, configurations vary greatly depending on which division is develops the applications and which contractors they choose to work with. With RACE, he says, departments need to specify with contractors that applications must conform to either LAMP or Windows.

This being the DoD, however, it should come as no surprise that performance — specifically as it relates to agility and speed — also is of the utmost importance. Garing says that because the DoD cannot always predict where its forces will be deployed, or for what purpose, the agency needs a platform that can deliver on these characteristics. “It’s all about the war fighter,” he stated. “Everything is about the war fighter and those other people at the edge who need to have information to do their jobs.” The cloud model will edge users to focus their talents on innovation rather than on worrying about storage, databases or computing power, he added.

Just a Testing Environment… For Now

Although RACE is strictly a development and testing environment for the time being, DISA definitely has bigger things in mind. “It’s the germ upon which we will grow this more important cloud, this platform,” says Garing.

Rivera says DISA is taking “baby steps” right now, addressing near-term issues like security while moving “very carefully” toward new architectures, technologies and uses to support departmental customers and war fighters. On the agenda, once security is hammered out and a seamless transition plan is in place, is rolling out a production environment. Infrastructure-wise, Rivera says the end game is “a finite architecture that is homogenous,” which probably will include Solaris support for war fighters, and an IBM presence.

He added that DISA also is looking to build a “Federated Development Certification Environment”  — a foundational set of applications and services on top of which customers can develop edge-type tools for publishing information and getting access to data stores. And although RACE currently is focused on defense support, Rivera says DoD back office support is not out of the question.

Garing agrees, citing increasing pressure and acquiescence to enterprise-type services within the DoD as driving RACE’s use in broader environments. However, he says, any new services will always be under the control of the Computing Services Directorate, and the goal of encouraging standard application types will remain.

Public Clouds: Tempting, but Dangerous

What are the prospects of DISA acquiring resources from a public cloud provider? “I don’t see it happening any time soon,” says Garing.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like it to. Garing says DISA has talked to providers like Google, Amazon and Salesforce.com, and really likes what it has seen, but one of the strengths of those clouds is that you can’t tell where data is being processed, and “we are not at a level of sophistication where we would accept that.” Possible solutions include carving off part of a public cloud under a .mil domain or having someone build DISA its own cloud (both of which have been proposed and discussed), but that’s not really the point, Garing says. “The dilemma is [that] the strengths of these public clouds are incredible, in my view,” he explains. “To take one of those — an element of it, an aspect of it, a piece of it — and put it inside our firewall would seem to me to start to sub-optimize the benefits of the cloud that you’re trying to use.”

Garing draws an “irresistible force versus immovable object” analogy to illustrate more clearly DISA’s internal dilemma. In this case, he says, the irresistible force is the “incredible thirst for collaboration and information-sharing that Web 2.0 tools and many young people have brought on board,” and the immovable object is security — “and those two clash frequently.” DISA’s job, particularly that of the Computing Services Directorate, is to arbitrate that clash and make good risk decisions, he says. Often times, this means looking at the worst-case scenario and taking a conservative route, because while the agency’s decisions are made inside the Washington, D.C., beltway, the ultimate consideration has to be what kind of risk the operational commander is willing to take.

“It’s like a big, beautiful plum hanging out there [that] we’d like to grab, but it’s like the fruit of the poison vine almost,” says Garing. “You’ve got to be so careful.”


On-Demand Enterprise will follow this look at the Department of Defense’s cloud computing strategy with a piece on how the federal government as a whole might adopt cloud computing technologies.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

ABB Upgrades Produce Up to 30 Percent Energy Reduction for HPE Supercomputers

June 6, 2020

The world’s supercomputers are currently allied in a common goal: defeating COVID-19. To analyze the billions upon billions of molecules that might produce helpful therapeutics (or even a vaccine), an unimaginable amou Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputers Take to the Solar Winds

June 5, 2020

The whims of the solar winds – charged particles flowing from the Sun’s atmosphere – can interfere with systems that are now crucial for modern life, such as satellites and GPS services – but these winds can be d Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC in O&G: Deep Sea Drilling – What Happens Now   

June 4, 2020

At the beginning of March I attended the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. That seems a long time ago now. It’s a great event where oil and gas specialists join with compute veterans and the discussion tell Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

NCSA Wades into Post-Blue Waters Era with Delta Supercomputer

June 3, 2020

NSF has awarded the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) $10 million for its next supercomputer - named Delta – “which will kick-start NCSA’s next generation of supercomputers post-Blue Waters,” Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Integrates Bitfusion for vHPC, GPU ‘Pools’

June 3, 2020

Dell Technologies advanced its hardware virtualization strategy to AI workloads this week with the introduction of capabilities aimed at expanding access to GPU and HPC services via its EMC, VMware and recently acquired Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Join AWS, Univa and Intel for This Informative Session!

Event Date: June 18, 2020

More enterprises than ever are turning to HPC cloud computing. Whether you’re just getting started, or more mature in your use of cloud, this HPC Cloud webinar is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable insights and knowledge to help accelerate your HPC cloud projects. Read more…

Supercomputers Streamline Prediction of Dangerous Arrhythmia

June 2, 2020

Heart arrhythmia can prove deadly, contributing to the hundreds of thousands of deaths from cardiac arrest in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, many of those arrhythmia are induced as side effects from various medicati Read more…

By Staff report

NCSA Wades into Post-Blue Waters Era with Delta Supercomputer

June 3, 2020

NSF has awarded the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) $10 million for its next supercomputer - named Delta – “which will kick-start NCS Read more…

By John Russell

Indiana University to Deploy Jetstream 2 Cloud with AMD, Nvidia Technology

June 2, 2020

Indiana University has been awarded a $10 million NSF grant to build ‘Jetstream 2,’ a cloud computing system that will provide 8 aggregate petaflops of comp Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

COVID-19 HPC Consortium Expands to Europe, Reports on Research Projects

May 28, 2020

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium, a public-private effort delivering free access to HPC processing for scientists pursuing coronavirus research – some utilizing AI Read more…

By Doug Black

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers Read more…

By John Russell

Hats Over Hearts: Remembering Rich Brueckner

May 26, 2020

HPCwire and all of the Tabor Communications family are saddened by last week’s passing of Rich Brueckner. He was the ever-optimistic man in the Red Hat presiding over the InsideHPC media portfolio for the past decade and a constant presence at HPC’s most important events. Read more…

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Contributors

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This