The AWS GovCloud
Companies with data subject to compliance regulations such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) are not allowed to manage and store defense-related data in an environment that could be accessed by anyone outside the U.S. This would include most Cloud implementations. Amazon addresses this legal requirement with its recently announced [cf. businesswire.com 8/16/11] AWS GovCloud, which is an AWS Region that is physically and logically accessible only from the U.S. by U.S. persons. Government contractors and government agencies can now manage more heavily regulated data in AWS while remaining compliant with strict federal requirements. GovCloud offers similar levels of AWS security as other AWS Regions but also supports controls and certifications such as FISMA, FIPS 140-2 compliant end points, SAS-70, ISO 27001, and PCIDSS Level 1.
The usual AWS resources can be deployed from the AWS GovCloud including Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Simple Storage Service (S3), and Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).
NASA’s JPL, a long time AWS user, will soon take advantage of the AWS GovCloud. Other government contractors and agencies (cf. http://aws.amazon.com/federal/) that use AWS in some Region, now have the option of moving over to the GovCloud Region. (Amazon has a charge for moving data from one Region to another. I wonder if they will wave this charge for Government agencies.)
It will be interesting to see how quickly classified simulations can be moved to a Cloud like AWS GovCloud. These simulations require tremendous hardware resources (ASIC simulations are typically run on Palladium workstations, for example) and would be perfect for the Cloud, since such resources are only needed during simulations. Flight simulations, Red/Blue Force battlefield simulations, and military GPS simulations, and some electronic warfare (EW) simulations could benefit. Some simulations need various types of high frequency RF fed into the simulation environment to special purpose hardware. Today, these feeds are captured and stored on special purpose Digital RF Memory devices (DRFM’s) and they play back into the simulation environment directly. Such huge storage devices would either have to be deployed directly and virtualized in the Cloud environment, or they would have to be simulated themselves with appropriate timing adjustments made. Either the special purpose hardware would need to be simulated, or placed on site.
In the end, the cost savings for the Government and its contractors to use such a Cloud implementation will be substantial, and the business, legal, security, and implementation kinks will surely be worked out soon.
Finally, other Cloud vendors will undoubtedly offer competitive services to the AWS GovCloud. Again, it’s only a matter of time.