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Print 9 comment(s) - last by InternetGeek.. on Mar 21 at 8:42 PM

Contract will be worth $600M USD, but is expected to be cheaper than a self-built solution

Federal agencies have traditionally adopted a do-it-yourself approach to hosting and online presence management.  But the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is shaking up that tradition, awarding a massive $600M USD, 10-year contract to Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), according to a new report.

I. Secret Contract?

The Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE) strategy, which calls for "greater integration, information sharing, and information safeguarding through a common (intelligence community) IT approach that substantially reduces costs" a series of guidelines published by the office of the Director of National Intelligence to improve national cybersecurity.  The language suggests intelligence agencies create secure, shared clouds.

Amazon
Amazon is a top player in the cloud and SaaS industries. [Image Source: Murphy & Co.]

Amazon -- one of the world's biggest cloud hosts -- seems to be purpose-built for that role.  Dave Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office, told online magazine FCW in an interview that the contract should help the CIA achieve that goal amid a harsh fiscal climate, stating, "In times of reducing budget situations you would expect to see agencies that haven't considered cloud solutions extensively in the past would be looking more and more of doing something along those lines."

The CIA and Amazon would neither confirm nor deny the contract, which was reported by FCW.  A CIA spokesperson said, "As a general rule, the CIA does not publicly disclose details of our contracts, the identities of our contractors, the contract values, or the scope of work."

II. CIA Drops Hints That It's Shacking up With Amazon

However, the contract may have been hinted at by the CIA's Chief Information Officer Jeanne Tisinger in a March 12 speech to the Northern Virginia Technology Council Board of Directors.  In that speech she stated that the shorter cycles and faster development pace of the corporate IT services industry provide advantages.  She says that exploring software-as-a-service (SaaS) and commodity IT options could cut costs.

Audience members of the closed door meeting recall Ms. Tisinger stating that the CIA was working "with companies like Amazon."

General Keith Alexander
CIA leaders (General Keith Alexander pictured) have praised Amazon in past interviews.
[Image Source: DefenseTech]

CIA Chief Technology Officer Gus Hunt also told Reuters in a previous interview that when it came to the government acquiring "metered" cloud services that it should turn to the private sector.  He is quoted as saying, "Think Amazon – that model really works."

It is unclear whether the new cloud (assuming it exists) will be housed internally (set up on site by Amazon) or remotely.  Also unclear is how much of the agency's current proprietary clouds will be replaced by the new third-party-supplied homogeneous cloud.  But what is clear is that the agency is shifting towards leveraging the efficiency of non-government commodity IT to cut its technology costs.

Sources: FSW, Reuters



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Costs
By MGSsancho on 3/21/2013 3:34:05 AM , Rating: 2
Amazon uses cheap stripped down gear along with Google to reduce capitol costs and use excellent software to manage it all. CIA figured instead of having a regular contractor build a datacenter with HP or IBM gear ($$$) it was cheaper to go with amazon. I am sure amazon will build it and have a few techs on site but like with other services,Amazon will have no idea what so ever what is actually running on them. This means the CIA's teams can just build their applications using API, help sites, forums, documentation, how-to videos, off the shelf books, in house and contracted talent. This is not a HPC cluster to crack passwords. That is the job of the NSA with their 7x budget, FPGAs, custom ASICs and other custom solutions. This new Datacenter is more of a general purpose.




RE: Costs
By GulWestfale on 3/21/2013 7:41:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
This means the CIA's teams can just build their applications using API, help sites, forums, documentation, how-to videos


uhh... you do know what the CIA does for a living, right? how-to videos isn't it.


RE: Costs
By othercents on 3/21/2013 8:25:30 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
uhh... you do know what the CIA does for a living, right? how-to videos isn't it.
You didn't see the how to invade Iraq with shock and awe video?


RE: Costs
By dgingerich on 3/21/2013 8:15:54 AM , Rating: 2
As an IT admin, I've always been nervous about putting company data onto a resource that wasn't on site. It seemed so insecure to me. I guess with the CIa doing this, it must be secure enough, huh?

Guess I better start looking for a job with AWS somewhere if I'm going to stay employed after this.


RE: Costs
By Argon18 on 3/21/2013 1:47:16 PM , Rating: 2
If you use strong encryption, and only you hold the keys, it doesn't matter where the data physically resides.

Of course this depends on the strength and integrity of the encryption, so choose your algorithm wisely. Right now AES256 is considered "unbreakable" with current technology.


RE: Costs
By InternetGeek on 3/21/2013 8:42:50 PM , Rating: 2
Encryption would be one critical aspect of this contract. However, I would be careful to clearly analyze the threats. In your context, you could argue that denying access to your data (i.e.: severing your connection to the DC) could be a good attack.


Realy reaching for pics...
By seeker353 on 3/21/2013 11:34:18 AM , Rating: 3
Since when is the director of the NSA considered "CIA Leadership"?




Security Controls
By InternetGeek on 3/20/2013 9:32:56 PM , Rating: 2
It would be a great opportunity to analyze the security controls applied to this solution. While not hard to imagine what's used (some alternative being too crude) it could serve a great reference implementation.




David Powner...
By croc on 3/20/2013 9:33:46 PM , Rating: 2
...What an unfortunate name.




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