Dell launches cloud solution for feds

Hardware stalwart joins Amazon, CGI and others in federal cloud market.

hands and cloud

Dell is targeting the public cloud infrastructure market with a new suite of products designed specifically for federal agencies.

Released this week, Dell Cloud for U.S. Government offers feds a range of flexible cloud solutions with infrastructure-, platform-, and software as a service options available, as well as a dedicated on-premises solution that allows agencies to be their own cloud providers.

The Austin, Texas-based technology company is hardly the first firm to respond to agencies' move to the cloud. IBM is pushing to get a $600 million CIA contract with Amazon Web Services re-opened, while HP and Lockheed each announced on June 6 that their cloud services are now certified under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), the federal government's standardized approach to cloud security assessments. Amazon Web Services had previously been FedRAMP-approved, as had Autonomic Resources and CGI Federal.

But the cloud's future is less opaque than it was just a few years ago. Jeff Lush, CTO of Dell Services Federal Government, said agencies are going to need more flexible cloud-based solutions to move past simpler projects like transitioning to cloud-based e-mail.

"When cloud came out, people had to adjust their business to meet the cloud, but that doesn't work as well," Lush told FCW. "What we've done is develop a cloud to be ultra-flexible so it can mold to your business. I call it hitting the IT reset button because this cloud infrastructure offers you everything to run an IT environment."

Earlier this year, Dell scrapped its previous offering in this space, its OpenStack-based infrastructure-as-a-service public cloud, in favor of a core cloud infrastructure based on Red Hat. Dell's new cloud offering is not based on previous models, but rather built up with the federal government's slew of security requirements in mind, Lush said.

Dell built nearly 300 security controls into its easily repeatable framework for customers and agencies, meeting security requirements contained in the National Institute of Standards and Technology's special publication 800-53. It's also compliant with the Federal Information Security Act (FISMA) – at low and moderate levels – and the Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process (DIACAP). A Dell spokesman said FedRAMP compliance is likely by early 2014.

Dell's announcement comes just days after competitors HP and Lockheed Martin achieved provisional compliance with FedRAMP, joining Amazon Web Services, Autonomic Resources and CGI Federal as the only companies to achieve a measure of compliance from FedRAMP thus far.

Dell expects operational deployments of its private cloud by July or August, but its remote Dell-hosted multi-tenant version likely won't be available until it achieves FedRAMP compliance, Lush said. Lush said Dell's new cloud offering – once fully rolled out – will allow federal agencies to implement a basic cloud environment within 30 days thanks to its flexibility and repeatability.

"That's the trick – how do you build it to be horizontally scalable for an environment of 100 virtual machines or 100,000 virtual machines and be able to build quickly within 30 days?" Lush said. "Anybody can scale in six months. We go in, find what they want, ask them where they want it – our facility, their facility, in the back of a Humvee, and then we layer them into infrastructure as a service and walk them through the rest of the process."