recommended reading

Cloud Moves for IBM Target Civilian Government, Defense

Melissa Bouyounan/Shutterstock.com

IBM has announced two new cloud data centers for federal customers featuring the Softlayer infrastructure and ecosystem it purchased last year.

One of the data centers will go online this month in Dallas and the other will open in the fall in Ashburn, Va. Both are designed specifically to comply with the government’s security requirements and risk-based assessments. According to IBM, both will meet Federal Information Security Management Act requirements and comply with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, known as FedRAMP, the government’s standardized approach to security assessment, authorizations and continuous monitoring.

The data centers are part of a $1.2 billion investment to expand IBM’s global cloud operations, and the company plans to double Softlayer cloud capacity before the end of 2014. IBM’s $2 billion acquisition of Softlayer a year ago has been a big hit with new customers, helping the company achieve a 50 percent growth rate in cloud sales and record earnings in 2013.

“This is the next logical phase for us,” said Andrew Maner, U.S. federal leader for IBM’s Global Business Services division. “You can’t be a one-trick pony. Buying Softlayer was nice, but the best part is bringing Softlayer skills and capabilities to market. We already have a FedRAMP-compliant offering, but we wanted to up the game, and that’s the purchase of Softlayer and now having federal-only specific facilities coming online.”

New cloud data center targets Defense workloads

In what may be an industry first, IBM has also announced a cloud data center built specifically to target high-sensitivity workloads within the Defense Department. Dubbed IBM Cloud Managed Services for Government, what’s particularly interesting about this data center is its location: the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in West Virginia, a highly secure, government-owned facility. As a tenant there, IBM wants to leverage the facility’s physical security – “It comes with gates, guns and guards,” Maner said – and its existing nonsecure Internet protocol router network, or NIPRNet, connection.

The NIPRNet is managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency and used to exchange sensitive but unclassified information between users.

While civilian agencies have been making use of commercial cloud service providers for several years, Defense’s move has been much slower in large part due to its enhanced security concerns. The current process, designed by DISA, for CSPs to make cloud services available to Defense customers involves assessing their solutions against requirements outlined in six “impact levels.” Impact levels are assigned to data by DISA depending on confidentiality and type, integrity and availability in categorizations of low-, moderate-, or high-risk under Federal Information Process Standard Publication 199.

Impact levels 1 and 2 deal with low-risk unclassified public information and unclassified private information, but the lion’s share of opportunity for CSPs in the Defense space is the data assigned to impact levels 3-5 – the higher-risk unclassified data. Meeting FedRAMP’s package of requirements can be thought of as a sort of a baseline or barrier to entry for a CSP to get into the DOD space, but each impact level adds additional requirements a cloud solution must meet before it can handle data at that respective level.

The data at impact levels 3-5 is what IBM is targeting with this new cloud data center, and according to the company, it has begun the certification process to obtain a provisional authority to operate from DISA to become part of the DISA Enterprise Cloud Service Broker network.

“This data center will be prepared to do a certain kind of workload that we defense, national security and intelligence clients might need more of,” Maner said.

Thus far, no cloud provider has achieved a provisional ATO from DISA at impact levels 3-5. Only four, Autonomic Resources Cloud Platform (ARC-P), CGI Federal's IaaS solution and Amazon Web Services' Government Community Cloud and East/West US Public Cloud, have managed to attain a provisional ATO at impact levels 1 and 2.

(Image via Melissa Bouyounan / Shutterstock.com)

Threatwatch Alert

Software vulnerability

Google Discloses Another Unpatched Microsoft Bug

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.