IBM's $62M Army Private Cloud Contract is About Ditching Legacy Systems

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As part of the Army Private Cloud Enterprise program, IBM will build an IT infrastructure at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama.

IBM continues to build on its momentum in the federal cloud computing market, inking a contract worth up to $62 million to host some of the U.S. Army’s most sensitive unclassified data.

As part of the Army Private Cloud Enterprise program, IBM will build an IT infrastructure at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama.

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IBM will provide infrastructure as a service, which includes hosting, storing and computing services, while allowing the Army to scale up or down power on an as-needed basis. It will also provide all the hardware and software, as well as cleared IBM employees at Redstone to manage the infrastructure.

The initial task order began in December and is for one year, with four additional 1-year options, which—if all are exercised —drives the contract ceiling to more than $60 million over five years.

“With this project, we’re beginning to bring the IT infrastructure of the U.S. Army into the 21st century,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell, U.S. Army chief information officer, in a statement. “Cloud computing is a game-changing architecture that provides improved performance with high efficiency, all in a secure environment.”

This Army workload is a continuation of IBM’s push to host more important military data.

Two years ago, IBM developed an on-premise hybrid cloud solution for the Army’s Logistics Support Agency, and last year, Big Blue received approval from the Defense Department to host Impact Level 5 data—the most sensitive unclassified data the military uses.

The Redstone Arsenal accesses both the contains both the Defense Department’s sensitive but unclassified network known as NIPRNet and the classified version, SIPRNet. IBM intends to meet DOD security requirements to host SIPRNet data some time in 2017.

As of yet, no cloud provider has officially met security requirements for DOD’s Impact Level 6 data. IBM has the opportunity to be the first, which could open the door to a new world of military business.

“The technology is there, now we’ve got to go through the actual process,” said Sam Gordy, general manager for IBM Federal, in an interview with Nextgov.

Cloud is often billed as a cost saver, but Gordy said the Army’s cloud push is geared more toward dealing with the challenges of operating legacy systems in today’s internet of things and “new information era.”

“If you’re not there, your enemies will be there, and whoever owns that battle space will be the ones who have advantages in upcoming conflicts,” Gordy said. “Once you migrate to cloud, you can fold things into that cloud, and you get a modernization that comes with applications across the board.”

Jimmy Norcross, vice president of IBM Federal’s defense and intelligence business, told Nextgov the contract is the “tip of the iceberg” for the Army and lauded the Army’s forward-thinking in dealing with legacy IT challenges. A lot of military brass talks about going to the cloud but in this case, Norcross said the Army is actually doing it.

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