UPDATED 03:36 EST / JUNE 25 2014

The CIA gives AWS the thumbs up, says its safe enough for spooks

small__3263567435In a surprising admission from the Central Intelligence Agency, it’s CIO Doug Wolfe has heaped praise upon Amazon Web Services, saying the agency wants to expand its use of the company’s cloudy tech.

Wolfe was speaking at an event in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, where he stated he was sure the CIA had gotten itself “a very good quality product, and a very secure product”, after awarding AWS a contract worth a reported $600 million. And now, with the CIA’s Amazon cloud barely up and running, Wolfe says the agency plans to make even more use of AWS’ cloud expertise.

“I am determined that we will not only have the innovation on how do we spin up the servers… but we’re going to start to bring the innovation from the commercial sector, in terms of applications, to the mission space as well,” the Financial Times quoted him as saying.

It’s not just the capabilities that AWS’s tech brings the CIA, but also the cost savings that Wolfe’s enthusiastic about.

“If you’re a government customer who has been used to just ordering up however much IT you want, and over-ordering typically — which people do, they often order for their peak need — if you’re a government customer used to doing that, you’re going to start getting a bill,” the Washington Post reported him as saying. “You’re going to start seeing exactly what your consumption cost, and start understanding exactly how server storage processing, et cetera, was applied to the problem. So we see this as a tremendous opportunity to sharpen our focus and be very efficient.”

That the CIA is heaping such praise on AWS is a huge deal, because one of the enterprises’ main worries about using cloud computing technologies has to do with governance and policy issues. We can’t say for sure, but we’re willing to bet the CIA’s information processing and policy requirements are every bit as complex as the largest of enterprises – and if they can be satisfied, well, why not everyone else?

The CIA’s awarded AWS a major procurement contract in February 2013 to provide it with a strategically important cloud service. The award was controversial because AWS beat IBM to the post, prompting Big Blue to angrily dispute the decision in the courts. The complaint was initially upheld by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), only to be withdrawn in October 2013. One month later, the United States Court of Federal Claims posted a redacted decision on Big Blue’s appeal, lambasting it for trying to “manipulate” the procurement process, saying it had “no substantial chance of winning the award in the first place”.

photo credit: macrorain (sigberg) via photopin cc

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