Update: AWS Launches First Modular Data Center Solution for Pentagon

AWS launches an edge computing system leveraging their Outpost offering for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Data Center Knowledge

February 14, 2023

3 Min Read
Update: AWS Launches First Modular Data Center Solution for Pentagon
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin replies to a question during a joint press conference with Japanese and U.S officials at the Department of State, January 11, 2023, in Washington, DC.TSgt. Jack Sanders / US Defense Department / Alamy Live News

Originally posted on February 14, 2023, 3:00 a.m. EST

Updated on February 14, 2023, 11:52 a.m. EST

Amazon Web Services (AWS) yesterday announced the availability of AWS Modular Data Center (AWS MDC) as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s $9 billion Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract.

For data center operators, this project provides observable use cases for modular data centers in low-connectivity environments. It also provides more clarity around edge computing and potential costs, or challenges involved.

The AWS MDC is an edge computing offering that gives government entities protected access to AWS’ Outposts technology. The use case for the DoD would be to military-grade security with dependable network access in Disconnected, Disrupted, Intermittent, or Limited (DDIL) environments with the aim of low-latency data management. One application would be emergency response scenarios after natural disasters.

AWS MDC is available to U.S. government entities with bidding access through the JWCC.

More coverage on JWCC

Some background on the JWCC: AWS won the right to bid for DoD cloud computing contracts along with competitors Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Oracle Cloud in December 2022. In that same month, AWS won a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) with the U.S. Navy to provide access to AWS services and training in AWS for Navy personnel. The DoD didn’t comment on whether the BPA was part of the JWCC.

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John Sherman, DoD principal deputy chief information officer, shared he would be providing the CSPs with more guidance around JWCC bidding in an interview with Breaking Defense earlier this month.

For context, this is the first time AWS has offered a modular data center service, but it’s not the first time it has engaged with the military market to provide secure access to its services. As with all four top CSPs, AWS offers AWS GovCloud, with isolated regions set apart for sensitive workloads.

“[AWS has] extended the Outposts portfolio, and this includes rugged devices now. According to our research, Outposts are the most popular on-prem IaaS solution, with HPE GreenLake second and Dell APEX third,” says Roy Illsley, chief analyst of IT operations at Omdia.

AWS MDC has two configurations: AWS MDC with Outposts racks and AWS Snow Family devices (racked). AWS Snow Family is designed for DDIL environments whereas AWS MDC with Outposts is best in reliable connectivity locations, according to an AWS spokesperson.

We wondered “Why now?” when it comes to an edge solution from AWS. Here’s what they shared:

“As the digital battlefield continues to evolve, our defense customers increasingly need access to cloud capabilities at the tactical edge, including DDIL environments all over the world,” Liz Martin, director of Defense at AWS, told Nextgov.

“With AWS Modular Data Center, we are converting data centers from fixed infrastructure that is difficult to build and manage in remote environments, to a comprehensive service that is simple to use, secure, cost-effective and can respond to large-scale compute and storage needs wherever the mission demands.”

February 14, 2023, 10:00 a.m. EST – Updated to include more details about the AWS MDC along with insights and commentary from Omdia analyst Roy Illsley.

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