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GCN : October 2014
12 GCN OCTOBER 2014 • GCN.COM Doug Wolfe, the chief information officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a cloud pioneer. His job: Guide the development of cloud computing for the whole of the intelligence commu- nity, knock down barriers between silos of data and analysis, introduce speedy IT and software development to traditionally slow- moving organizations and help make the intelligence sector a beacon of innovation. That might not be how his job description is written, but as the technology leader at the CIA, that’s the mission he’s on. The CIA’s $600 million hosted cloud from Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently came online, after protests from the losing com- panies were settled. The system is available to provide services on demand to the 17 agencies of the intelligence community (IC), for which CIA is the executive agency. The solution – an air-gapped public cloud that uses wholly commercial technology provided by AWS –fulfills a vision set out in the IC’s five-year Information Technology Enterprise (ITE) strategy published in 2012. However, it’s also the result of a long-time interest by the CIA in using virtualization to boost the performance of its data centers and provide its analysts with different, and better, analytics tools. Taken together, and with a growing desire to integrate systems and capabilities across the entire IC, the cloud became an obvious answer to the scope and scale this required. “It gives us the flexibility to optimize re- sources across different workloads at differ- ent times, and ensures we have [compute] capacity ahead of the demand,” Wolfe said. That affects “time to mission” sig- nificantly, he said, since setting up new analytics and data center environments will now end up taking just days, rather than the months or even years it has taken with the traditional development model. AWS will be able to use technology advances for the IC cloud as soon as they are available, which will enable major software innovation within the IC. “Right up front, I think people will be able to access and provision a test and develop- ment environment that will give them the op- portunity to explore and develop things much more rapidly than in the past,” Wolfe said. “ That will give us the experience we need to be able to transition and optimize higher end and more production-ready applications into the cloud over time.” The new tools will “absolutely ” change the role of analysts in the IC, Wolfe believes, though exactly how is unclear. “One of my really great hopes is that we set up an environment for innovation so we’ll be able to explore what can be automated, what can be done with machine-to-machine interac- tions and where humans need to be involved and can add value,” he said. The provision of an entire technology platform and middleware stack via the AWS cloud removes many of the CIO office’s responsibilities as solely a provider of IT. “ So our focus is going to be, more and more, on how to provide the value-added analytics gaps that can make a difference to mission time,” he said. Wolfe has had to deal with many skeptics, particularly over the issue of security in the cloud – and they still exist. There’s also cul- tural bias to overcome, and he admits that he also, “was one of those guys who felt it was nice to own your own IT to feel it and be able to kick it.” Nothing can be taken for granted, and there’s still a lot of work that has to be done, but in the end, “I ’m confident we’ll achieve many of the successes we are looking for,” Wolfe said. — Brian Robinson CIA chief information officer Doug Wolfe ushers in the era of cloud computing to the intelligence community, bringing in powerful new tools for rapid data integration and analytics. WOLFE LEADS THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY TO THE CLOUD PHOTOSBYZAIDHAMID
November and December 2014