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What the CIA private cloud really says about Amazon Web Services

Bernard Golden | Aug. 7, 2013
When the CIA opted to have Amazon build its private cloud, even though IBM could do it for less money, a tech soap opera ensued. Lost amid the drama, though, is a perfectly reasonable explanation why Amazon Web Services makes sense for the CIA--and why a disruptive AWS represents the future of the cloud.

In the figure below, the magic happens in the dark blue boxes, which is where the Cloud Operating System resides. In addition to all the software that coordinates AWS itself, this is where AWS services such as Elastic Compute Cloud reside.

Amazon Web Services' orchestration and services software (seen in the dark blue box) add tremendous value.

Part of the way Amazon continues its astonishing pace of innovation is that it creates new services by combining existing services with new software overlays. For example, its DynamoDB service places a redundant key-pair storage software capability on top of the existing EC2 instance service, enabling the storage service to leverage the EC2 computing capability.

The use of smart software to run a cloud environment clearly offers advantages in terms of scalability. It also makes it easier to create new services and applications. It can't have escaped the CIA's notice that the explosion of big data and next-generation applications is far better served by a smart, adaptable, agile infrastructure environment. In the clash of cloud design philosophies, the CIA clearly voted for the cheap but clever AWS approach.

3. AWS ecosystem of rich services attracts developers
One of the main reasons developers embrace AWS is because of the richness of its services. This includes services that AWS itself provides, as well as a very large number provided by third parties. Developers can stitch applications together by combining these services with their own business logic.

The alternative for users with most other cloud providers is to implement those services on their own, in one of two ways- open source packages, which have the virtue of being easily downloaded, or commercial software offerings, which require a contractual arrangement prior to use. In either case, the burden of getting the required capability up and running falls to the developer. This significantly increases the effort of delivering and operating an application.

The AWS ecosystem provides an enormous advantage for users, enabling them to deploy applications quickly. Staten notes that the only extended service discussed in the RFP is a MapReduce analytics capability; he goes on to say that even if other services aren't available in the CIA's private environment, it would be easy for the agency to incorporate public AWS services, given that it would already have AWS interfaces and tooling in place to work with the internal cloud.

It may be, however, that other AWS services (if not third-party ones) could be made available on the private cloud. If the clever software that makes up the AWS infrastructure management capability is in place, it seems that it would be possible to, say, make DynamoDB available as well.

 

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