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Can DISA Operate the DoD Cloud?

2011 global IT spending is expected to reach $3.4 trillion.  DoD has a $36.3 billion IT budget, plus an estimated spending for 150,000 military and civilian personnel of $15 billion. Consequently, the DoD has by far the single largest IT budget in the world. It consumes 1.5% of total global costs.

The 2010 DoD Operations & Maintenance IT expense was $25.1 billion. Over a half of that was spent in data centers.

The potential size of all DoD cloud operations would be approximately $12.5 billion.  Such a huge computer operation does not exist anywhere. How such as complex could be managed is not known. The two largest public commercial cloud firms, Amazon EC and Rackspace, have revenues of only about $1 billion. To take over cloud computing for DoD the DISA operation would have to grow at an unprecedented scale.  Its organization would have to be restructured.

The most detailed information about DISA computing operations come from a presentation made in February 2009.  DISA operated thirteen Enterprise computing (DECC) data centers, averaging 34,000 square feet of raised floor. That is comparable to the US data center I built in 1972 for Xerox but which is now economically not viable because it is too small. From the standpoint of economies of scale, newly built data centers to house cloud operations is in the 300,000 to 500,000 square foot range, which makes DISA data centers too small. There are now hundreds of such data centers.

The current DECCs are the result of the consolidation of marginal data centers authorized by DMRD 918, which was approved in 1992. This was based on work that started in 1990 when I was the Director of Defense Information. The DECCs were supposed to be completed by 1996 so that a next phase of consolidation of data centers that would consolidate Components’ operations could take place. That never happened. While the DISA data center count held steady at thirteen, the total number of DoD data centers grew to a total of 772.

New commercial cloud data centers are currently being constructed to house over 100,000 servers. At present, DISA has in all data centers only a total of 6,100 servers plus 34 mainframes, which are used mostly for legacy applications and would not be suitable for cloud operations. Again, the scale of DISA data centers is too small.
In 2009 the total number of files in all DISA data centers was 3.8 petabytes. The only benchmark comparison we have is the 29 petabytes that can be housed in 320 square feet. DISA storage capacity does not have anywhere such density.

The current claim that DISA could become the processing cloud for DoD is not as yet credible. How DoD could migrate into cloud computing is a question that still needs more work.

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