The Pentagon’s Top Cloud Computing Supplier

Early last year the federal government began what could be the largest data center consolidation project in history. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra outlined the details for reducing IT operations that are currently distributed among more than 1,100 data centers. Throughout the process of discovery for the project it was reported to Kundra that the government actually had 2,094 data centers instead of 1,100.  With any room larger than 500 square feet being classified as a data center the Department of Defense accounted for 772 of those data centers.


A consolidation project of this scale will certainly be a challenge to coordinate across agencies and efforts could be delayed by the sheer complexity and of funding sources being identified. Terremark COO Bruce Hart told Government Computer News that he didn’t “think [Federal CIO] Vivek Kundra has done an adequate job to date to identify the source of funding for all of this, because data center consolidation is a fairly expensive proposition.  Compared to moving applications such as e-mail to a cloud computing environment, data center consolidation is going to take serious cash.”

DISA cloud services

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) operates 14 data centers around the world with approximately 3.7 petabytes connected by the broadband Defense network, the Global Information Grid (GIG).  Nextgov points out that DISA is ‘uniquely positioned’ to become the leading provider of cloud computing services to the Defense Department for both unclassified and classified data, according to the agency’s chief technology officer Dave Mihelcic.

DISA provides secure application hosting, storage, and bandwidth to military departments and agencies. It developed the Department of Defense’s native cloud platform, known as the Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE). The agency described the RACE transition in a presentation at Data Center World in 2009, saying the cloud model could  save hundreds of millions of dollars in IT costs for the defense department.

DISA serves the Army and Navy

The Army signed an agreement for DISA to host their email and the Naval Sea Systems Command runs its Web services and ship system design in the DISA cloud.  The global network operated by DISA moves the applications closer to end users through their GIG Content Delivery System.  The service is based on technology developed by Akamai to serve major commercial Web outlets with a network of distributed servers. To offer an alternative to remove users Mihelcic said that they are developing a data center in a transportable shipping container that houses servers and routers and easy-to-hook-up power connections.

When compared with commercial providers Mihelcic is hopeful that DISA stands out as a clear (and more secure) choice for other governmental agencies to select when looking to the cloud.

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About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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  1. We developed Nebula for NASA initially because DISA was unwilling to provide RACE to other agencies, except under an "if we don't need it right now" SLA. This is the same reason Vivek's first use of cloud (for was powered by Nebula, and not RACE. RACE is a great platform - but really only suited to moderate or high-security systems, where the users can negotiate reasonable service levels from a defence-centric organization. This does not describe the majority of federal government computing, when you take into account the sheer volume of *public* data in the science agencies.

  2. Dan

    @Joshua.... USA.Gov being hosted on the cloud predates on the cloud by six months. Wouldn't that be Kundra's first use of cloud for a Federal site?