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CIA tech official calls Amazon cloud project 'transformational'
Source: Naomi Nix

Top CIA technology official Sean Roche gave an enthusiastic review this week of the agency’s multimillion-dollar cloud computing deal with Inc.

“It’s been nothing short of transformational,” Roche, the CIA’s associate deputy director of digital innovation, said at an Amazon conference in Washington. “It has transformed our ability to build new capabilities.”

Roche said the $600 million contract, which was awarded to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2013, has given the CIA the opportunity to evaluate which legacy technology systems are worth keeping and whether there are other high-quality products the agency should be using instead.

“You do not move to the cloud or buy new hardware so you can host legacy services,” he said.

Roche spoke at the AWS Public Sector Summit at a time when Seattle-based Amazon is considered to be the leading candidate for the Pentagon’s winner-take-all competition to provide broad-based cloud services to the agency. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has publicly praised the CIA’s venture into the cloud.

Amazon’s Rivals

Other technology companies jockeying for a piece of the Pentagon’s cloud business have urged the Defense Department to pick multiple providers for the project, arguing that the Pentagon’s requirements unfairly favor Amazon Web Services, the dominant cloud services provider. Choosing only one winner for the multibillion-dollar contract would stifle innovation and raise security risks, the companies argue.

Without mentioning the Defense Department’s cloud project or the criticism from Amazon’s rivals, Roche offered a counter to that idea.

The CIA "cannot be locked into proprietary data structures and proprietary databases” with “licensing agreements that make timeshare condos in Florida look good," he said.

The Pentagon has indefinitely delayed releasing a final request for proposals for its cloud project, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI.

Oracle, IBM

The transition to cloud could threaten onsite database providers such as Oracle Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. that have long supplied government technology products but were later entrants into the cloud market.

The Pentagon has defended its decision to choose a single provider as the best approach for “rapidly delivering new capabilities” to American forces deployed worldwide but has also indicated the project won’t necessarily replace other cloud projects.

Instead, the department is developing a tool to help project managers determine if the chosen cloud provider for JEDI is the right place to store their data and applications, according to spokeswoman Heather Babb.

“The expectation is that JEDI will be a preferred infrastructure hosting solution for DoD applications and that programs will need to defend decisions to invest in less capable or more costly solutions,” Babb said.


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