The concept of network-based computing began in the 1960s, but the current era of accessible cloud computing did not begin until the mid-2000s with the arrival of commercial web services.
Today, the push to the cloud is transforming the way companies acquire and use business information technology (IT) systems. Companies large and small are reaping the benefits from migrating to the cloud — increased security, decreased infrastructure costs, improved mobility and reliability, added technical agility and scalability.
One such company is Netflix, which decided to transition to the cloud in August 2008, and completed the migration of all its systems to the cloud by January 2016. During the conversion, Netflix’s number of streaming members grew eightfold and the overall amount of content viewed grew by three times.
“The Netflix product itself has continued to evolve rapidly, incorporating many new resource-hungry features and relying on ever-growing volumes of data,” wrote Yury Izrailevsky, Netflix cloud and platform engineering vice president, on the company blog on Feb. 11, 2016. “Supporting such rapid growth would have been extremely difficult out of our own data centers; we simply could not have racked the servers fast enough. Elasticity of the cloud allows us to add thousands of virtual servers and petabytes of storage within minutes, making such an expansion possible.”
Netflix moved to the cloud to improve and increase its service availability, which it has achieved with a cloud infrastructure with multiple built-in redundancies. Case in point, during the Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage in February, more than 150,000 websites experienced significantly increased load times or went down completely. Netflix was not affected because it had designed an AWS cloud infrastructure involving multiple connected zones — each with a data center and associated power, networking and connectivity — that allows for zone switchovers when failures occur.
As other companies join Netflix in shifting from on-premises data centers to the cloud, the Navy is making a similar transformation in how it acquires IT systems. The Navy is changing its commercial IT acquisition model from purchasing on-premises equipment and software systems to a “Cloud First Strategy” with a goal of moving all possible Navy IT capabilities to commercial cloud computing environments and building new IT capabilities based on cloud technologies for those environments.
“We are getting out of the shore-based infrastructure business,” said Victor Gavin, program executive officer for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS). “In doing that, we have to examine what that means to us and how we provide guidance to application owners.”
The Navy’s Cloud First Strategy works for information technology because acquiring IT systems differs from the traditional development and acquisition model used for battlespace-related equipment such as ships, aircraft, and weapons systems. Major weapon system procurements follow the traditional acquisition models in which a military need for a weapons system drives the development of the item through the investment of research dollars in private companies.
Commercial IT acquisition generally involves evaluating current and available technologies vice issuing requirements for new capabilities. When it comes to IT, innovations are driven by industry seeking to improve technological capabilities, decrease costs and increase employee mobility, efficiency and productivity. Once proven to be cost-effective, reliable, and most importantly, secure, the Navy seeks to leverage those advancements by following industry’s lead in adopting and acquiring it.
Additionally, the speed in which cloud services can be certified and implemented is a major benefit due to the rapid pace in which technology evolves.
The Navy began its push to reduce its on-premises data centers several years ago to meet a Congressional mandate to decrease the number of Navy operated data centers from 114 down to 20. The Data Center Consolidation plan was to shrink the Navy’s overall data center footprint, deliver cost and environmental efficiencies and increase the overall IT security posture while ensuring warfighter mission support.
“Now that cloud infrastructure is here, we’re beginning to question whether we need any data centers,” Gavin said. “Our goal is to have as few Navy-operated, unclassified data centers as possible.”
Fast forward to today: in addition to the challenge of consolidating data centers, the Navy is also developing a plan to increase its cloud footprint.
Last month, the Navy held its first enterprise-wide cloud stand-down with representatives from the acquisition, resource sponsor, and operational communities. The goal is to develop a way forward for all facets of cloud acceleration, including cloud brokering, architecture, service offerings and alignment and integration of existing data center consolidation and reduction efforts.
“PEO EIS is leading the way in commercial cloud acquisition,” said Dan DelGrosso, PEO EIS technical director. “We owe it to the rest of the Navy to provide a secure, flexible and cost-effective environment for Navy data and associated applications.”
The Navy currently has a single approved cloud broker, PEO EIS Data Center and Applications Optimization Program Office (DCAO), which is managing the first cloud contract to move approximately 84 applications to the cloud. One commercial cloud service provider is certified for the Navy, but two other providers are closing in on certification.
“We are just starting our migration to the cloud,” DelGrosso said.
My Navy Portal Cloud Launch
Although migration to the cloud is in the early stages, the Navy recently achieved a major cloud success with the February launch of My Navy Portal (MNP), a Sailor-facing, self-service portal to manage human resources needs from hire to retire. The Navy currently has about 60 human resources systems used by Sailors to manage their careers.
Work on MNP began in December 2012 as a prototype effort to either link to all the HR systems or to pull them into a single public portal.
“The Navy made the decision to release My Navy Portal in the cloud as part of the Cloud First initiative in the fall of 2015,” said Jake Aplanalp, the Sea Warrior Program (PMW 240) assistant program manager for MNP. “Hosting My Navy Portal in the cloud is less expensive than hosting it in a Navy Enterprise Data Center and it is faster to implement and scale as well. It takes anywhere from six to nine months for the Navy to add a server in the shore-based data center, but with cloud technology, a new server can be added in as little as 10 minutes. The decreased cost and that ability to scale were the two big reasons to go to the cloud.”
My Navy Portal is the Department of Defense’s first cloud-approved impact level 4 system, as defined in the DoD Cloud Computing Security Requirements Guide (CC SRG).
The CC SRG defines impact levels based on the type of data stored and the potential impact if there is an event that results in the loss of confidentiality, integrity or availability of data, systems or networks. A level 4 system is one which has controlled unclassified information, such as personally identifiable information (PII) and For Official Use Only (FOUO) data. MNP displays PII data.
“Working with our cyber teammates to become the first Level 4 system with PII data accredited and certified for the cloud was a major achievement,” Aplanalp said. “The scope of the accomplishment became clear when we started receiving calls from our colleagues throughout the other uniformed services and non-DoD agencies who are interested in learning about how we navigated the approval process.”
Right now, My Navy Portal is primarily a one-stop shop with links to the HR systems used by Sailors, but over time, many of those systems will be incorporated. When MNP was released, most of the capabilities from Navy Knowledge Online (NKO) and the Physical Readiness Information Management System (PRIMS) Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) were available in the portal.
Typically, the Navy waits until a product is fully built with all of its expected capabilities before launching it, but the Navy would have to wait a long time for all 60 systems to be incorporated prior to releasing MNP, Aplanalp said. “There are major challenges in incorporating systems while they continue to be maintained, updated and actively used by Sailors. Now that My Navy Portal is out, systems owners are better able to see the overall vision and intended use of MNP.”
New capabilities are being added to My Navy Portal every three months. The next steps for MNP are to:
--Develop a low bandwidth version that works afloat and for other users on slow networks. This capability is scheduled to come online in August.
--Take MNP to the public cloud.
--Continue to incorporate systems into MNP.
My Navy Portal is currently hosted on a commercial cloud provider’s government cloud, which has additional security requirements, such as utilizing a Cloud Access Point (CAP), not available on the public cloud.
There are financial benefits to moving to the public cloud, Aplanalp said. “On the government cloud, the Navy has to license and implement much of the software that is used, but on the public cloud a suite of software services is available for an optional fee without having to purchase our own licenses.”
Editor’s Note: April 20, 2017, the PEO EIS held a Change of Charge ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard in which Mr. Victor Gavin was relieved by Ms. Ruth Youngs Lew. Gavin is now the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Information Operations, and Space (DASN C4I, IO, and Space).
DON IT East Cloud Panels
PEO EIS is moderating two cloud panels during the May 16 - 18 DON IT East Conference in Norfolk.
DON Cloud Acceleration: A Senior Leadership Perspective
Time: 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, May 17
Location: 3rd floor, Granby Room A/B/C
Description: An executive level view of the Navy’s acceleration to the cloud, highlighting policy, requirements and acquisition considerations.
DON Cloud Acceleration: Plans, Challenges & Execution
Time: 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 17
Location: 3rd floor, Granby Room A/B/C
Description: A Cloud 101 overview of the Navy’s approach to cloud from various perspectives, including the customer view.
More information about My Navy Portal can be found on the My Navy Portal public page at https://my.navy.mil and the Navy Personnel Command Career Toolbox website at www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/career/toolbox/Pages/My-Navy-Portal.aspx.
For news and information about PEO EIS, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/peoeis/, http://www.public.navy.mil/spawar/PEOEIS/Pages/default.aspx, http://www.secnav.navy.mil/innovation/inncell/Pages/default.aspx and follow @PEOEIS on Twitter.