UPDATED 19:07 EDT / FEBRUARY 05 2020

A man walks over the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. Gen. Michael Hayden, who was replaced as CIA chief earlier this year by President Barack Obama, assailed Obama's decision last week to release "Top Secret" memos detailing the interrogation techniques as "really dangerous" for US intelligence efforts. Speaking on the "Fox News Sunday" program, on April 19, 2009 Hayden rejected claims by critics that methods like extreme sleep deprivation, waterboarding and the use of insects to provoke fear had proved ineffective in getting information from top members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB/FILES CLOUD

CIA reportedly seeking to hire multiple providers for new cloud computing contracts

The Central Intelligence Agency is planning to adopt a multicloud strategy to hire multiple cloud infrastructure providers under a new project called the Commercial Cloud Enterprise initiative.

The initiative is meant to help the CIA expand the cloud computing capabilities it gained when it awarded a $600 million contract to Amazon Web Services Inc. back in 2013, Bloomberg said today.

The CIA has already presented procurement documents to several major cloud providers in a move that should “dramatically expand the federal cloud market.” The cloud providers are said to include Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp., and all three are likely to submit bids, the Bloomberg report added.

Under the C2E initiative, the CIA will award multiple contracts to cloud companies that can host data with varying security requirements, including unclassified, secret and top-secret information. The cloud companies will be assessed on several factors, including their global reach, their operational excellence and their ability to innovate, a report from Nextgov revealed.

The contracts could last for 15 years, with an initial five-year base period and two five-year renewals, Bloomberg said.

It’s not clear how much money the CIA is ultimately willing to spend on C2E, but the agency has previously indicated it could spend billions of dollars on cloud computing infrastructure. That’s because the agency is one very happy customer: Sean Roche, the CIA’s associate deputy director of digital innovation, and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis both praised the benefits of the 2013 AWS deal in the past, Bloomberg noted.

“Cloud computing has proven to be transformational for intelligence community consumers, increasing the speed at which new applications can be developed to support mission and improving the functionality and security of those applications,” the CIA’s procurement documents read. “In response to mission demand since 2013, the IC’s portfolio of commercial cloud services has expanded by adding new services from the commercial domain, increasing compute and storage capacity, and acquiring services from multiple commercial vendors.”

The documents show that C2E will consist of two acquisitions – firstly a multi-award, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract “for professional services and foundational services,” including infrastructure-, platform- and software-as-a-service. There will also be a “cloud integrator” acquisition that will provide “cloud integration support and tools for multi-cloud management” to support foundational cloud services.

Charles King of Pund-IT Inc. told SiliconANGLE that the multicloud approach is an excellent strategy for the CIA because it means it will be able to choose individual vendors based on their experience and strengths, while also reducing the level of risk it exposes itself to.

The approach could also be very good news for IBM in particular, the analyst said, since he believes it has an excellent chance of winning some of the CIA contracts. He said IBM’s cloud business is running a strong third behind AWS and Microsoft Azure, and that it’s currently twice as big as Google’s, though others put Google in third.

“IBM’s focus is and always has been on delivering enterprise-grade reliability and security in its cloud offerings,” King said. “That’s something the CIA is likely to appreciate, along with IBM’s network of global cloud data centers and its ability to support complex workloads such as AI, supercomputing and blockchain cloud instances.”

King added that IBM’s new Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna most recently led that company’s Cloud and Cognitive Computing unit, and was instrumental in building out its hybrid cloud business.

“In other words, the company understands the kind of cloud services C2E will be comprised of, knows how to deliver them, and has a long history of winning this kind of business, including U.S. government projects,” King said.

Of course, AWS and Microsoft Azure will also be in with a chance of landing at least some of the CIA contracts, Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller said. In the case of AWS, it has an incumbent advantage due to having won that first contract with the CIA in 2013, he said.

“The Microsoft and Oracle partnership will also be interesting for the CIA, assuming it intends to keep running Oracle databases,” Mueller said.

By choosing a multicloud approach, the CIA will also hope to avoid the kind of criticism that followed the Department of Defense’s decision to award the extremely lucrative Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud computing contract to a single provider.

In that case, Microsoft unexpectedly beat AWS to land that contract, which could be worth up to $10 billion over the next 10 years. AWS has vehemently protested that award and is now suing the government over claims that it lost the contract because of interference from President Donald Trump.

The CIA is expected to open the bidding for the C2E initiative in the spring, with contracts likely to be awarded by September.

Photo: Dawblog/Flickr

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