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July 25, 2018
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Cloud is the great enabler of our age. It gives us the scale to wrangle unimaginable quantities of data, the power to turn that data into knowledge and the reach to support huge far-flung user bases scattered across the globe.

But Cloud isn’t easy. The learning curve is steep and the complexities – with security, with cost, with controls – aren’t simple. But once you get those details right, the payoffs are tremendous.

At the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit last month, General Dynamics was among the principal sponsors, demonstrating our close partnership with AWS and the support we provide government agencies navigating their way into the cloud. We heard there from Sean Roche, CIA’s associate deputy director for digital innovation, who talked about what his agency has learned since the launch five years ago of Commercial Cloud Services (C2S), a private AWS cloud region hosted on CIA premises. C2S has been transformational for the agency, Roch said, accelerating innovation and problem solving to help small teams accomplish overnight what used to take large teams days or weeks.

At GDIT, we’ve seen similar progress with our agency partners, and we shared some of that experience at the Summit. The National Cancer Institute’s acting chief information officer, Jeff Shilling, explained how his agency spent a year laying the groundwork to get security, acquisition and other processes in place – and then, with GDIT’s assistance, leveraged that upfront homework to secure the required Authority to Operate in just eight weeks flat. This isn’t just about changing IT, Shilling said: “It’s really a transformation in how we do work.”

We also learned that moving to the cloud garnered operational efficiencies which could be re-vectored to the institute’s scientific mission – a clear win for everyone.

Then Rick Jack, senior scientist technical manager at SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, shared how Navy leadership asked SPAWAR to help accelerate cloud adoption in the service. Jack said the problem wasn’t that cloud wasn’t available, but rather that it was just too difficult. With standardized security, payment models and controls and service level agreements, each new user had to figure it all out on his or her own. To benefit from scale, they had to find a way to share and leverage expertise and lay down guard rails to keep processes safe, affordable and secure.

SPAWAR’s solution: Set up a cloud brokerage with access to both AWS and Azure, supported by a GDIT-engineered web portal that makes gaining cloud knowledge, calculating costs and finding additional guidance and professional services easy. Payment risk is controlled by means of a “gift card model,” ensuring customers understand what they’re spending and how fast their burning through available budget. Alerts indicate when funding is running low and is at risk of running out. The project leverages the existing security stack and a “SecDevOps pipeline” that monitors software development and ensures security risks are spotted – and resolved – early.

Jack guided his cloud access project from task order to delivery in a stunning six months. “That is monumentally fast in DoD speak,” Jack says.

What’s the lesson here? When you bring cloud to bear on big problems, you turn up the pace of innovation. Sure, it may seem daunting at first, but don’t be intimidated. Leverage what you have, take a disciplined approach to problem solving – and remember you don’t have to re-invent the wheel all by yourself. Engage an experienced partner to help, and there’s no hurdle you can’t overcome.