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The Intelligence Cloud? The US Intelligence Community (IC) Announces Multi-Cloud Push

The US Intelligence Community (IC), including the CIA and NSA, has an obvious need for the latest analytical technology. That exists in the public cloud. The IC recognizes this and will procure “tens of billions” in dollars of public cloud services by 2021.

The Register reports that the Pentagon’s similar, but fraught, experience with its effort to sole source cloud services may have informed the IC’s decision to take a multi-cloud approach.

As part of the procurement exercise, the IC will be evaluating vendors from across the cloud spectrum (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS), and working with CSPs to acquire “specialized” SaaS and PaaS to augment the SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS acquired earlier in the project (according to a deck presented at an industry day and published by Washington Technology).

Worth noting, the IC is looking for cloud providers that meet seventeen requirements (per the deck), including the following:

  • Provide services on/off government premises
  • Extensive edge capabilities, including machine learning and AI, even where network communications are unavailable
  • Operate in a potentially top-secret environment
  • Keep up with commercial cloud offerings by bringing new features to the IC within three months
  • Ensure interoperability between cloud environments
  • Offer comparable pricing to the provider’s commercial cloud
  • Facilitate the transition off of the provider’s cloud infrastructure as needed

This is a laundry list of requirements, and at tens of billions of dollars, the IC is in a unique position: it can negotiate with the cloud providers. In other words, they might just get what they are after.

Our Take

This announcement has two major implications: first, the IC saw what the Pentagon was up to with its efforts to single-source its public cloud services and opted out. At Info-Tech we endorse a workload-by-workload approach; some vendors are better at providing some services than others. The IC seems to recognize this. Second, if the IC is successful in negotiating some of these points (exit clauses, etc.), it may serve as a template for other organizations in their cloud procurement journeys. Keep an eye on this process. It could provide some valuable lessons.

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