In a move sure to send ripples through the federal IT community, FCW has learned that the CIA has agreed to a cloud computing contract with electronic commerce giant Amazon, worth up to $600 million over 10 years.
Amazon Web Services will help the intelligence agency build a private cloud infrastructure that helps the agency keep up with emerging technologies like big data in a cost-effective manner not possible under the CIA's previous cloud efforts, sources told FCW.
Amazon officials would not confirm the existence of the contract, and a CIA spokesperson likewise declined to comment on the matter.
"As a general rule, the CIA does not publicly disclose details of our contracts, the identities of our contractors, the contract values, or the scope of work," a CIA spokesperson told FCW.
In recent speaking engagements, however, CIA officials have hinted at significant upcoming changes to the way the agency procures software, how it uses big-data analytics and the ways in which it incorporates commercial-sector innovation.
Speaking to the Northern Virginia Technology Council Board of Directors on March 12, Central Intelligence Agency Chief Information Officer Jeanne Tisinger told an audience of several dozen people how the CIA is leveraging the commercial sector's innovation cycle, looking for cost efficiencies in commodity IT, and using software-as-a-service for common solutions.
Two audience members who asked not to be named told FCW that Tisinger said the CIA was working "with companies like Amazon."
CIA Chief Technology Officer Gus Hunt would not respond to FCW's questions about the Amazon deal, but did drop the firm's name in relation to software procurement during a conference organized by the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association's Washington, D.C. chapter in February. Hunt was quoted by Reuters as saying, "Think Amazon – that model really works," regarding the purchasing of software services on a "metered" basis for which Amazon is well-known for. Hunt has also spoken publicly in the past about the potential for leveraging public cloud infrastructure for non-classified information.
Historically, the CIA's cloud computing strategy centered on a number of smaller, highly specific private clouds. While the full scope of its current contract with Amazon is not yet clear, it is likely this contract essentially brings a public cloud computing environment inside the secure firewalls of the intelligence community, thereby negating concerns of classified data being hosted in any public environment.
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