Navy CIO: Use the cloud, but be careful

The public cloud should not be used for classified or mission-critical information

The U.S. Navy's CIO has directed that Naval information systems be migrated to commercial cloud service providers, but only for information that has already been approved for public release.

The public cloud should not be used for classified or mission-critical information or applications, he says.

The announcement marks a clear endorsement of cloud computing resources by a senior government IT official, but emphasizes the limited use cases with which IT professionals are willing to use cloud-based services.

[RELATED: Report: Amazon is building $600M cloud for the CIA]

According to a memo from Terry Halvorsen, CIO of the Department of Navy, all information systems within the organization should investigate the use of cloud service providers to host information systems. Halvorsen says using cloud-based services can increase efficiency while not sacrificing effectiveness, if done properly. He urges members of his IT staff to "expand analyses" of commercial cloud service providers to host naval information systems to determine if public cloud resources can provide better capabilities at lower costs compared to the status quo. He notes that the Marine Corps Intranet is already hosted in commercial service provider facilities.

The first step, he says, is moving "low-impact" information systems and mission functions to commercial cloud service providers. Priority should be given to systems and applications which have information that if leaked or compromised would have limited adverse effect on Naval operations. Systems that contain information that's already been publicly released, for example, are prime candidates to move to public clouds, he says.

As government entities ease to the idea of moving resources to public cloud computing platforms, service providers seem to be priming their offerings to host such data. Providers like Amazon Web Services, though its AWS GovCloud, and Terremark have cloud options geared specifically at government clients, for example.

Rumors have been circulating that some government entities may be using the cloud for their own internal, behind-the-firewall private clouds too. Amazon Web Services is reportedly working with the CIA to build a cloud for that spy agency, while others have recently reported that officials from the National Security Administration are set to discuss their use of OpenStack cloud platform technology at the project's summit next week in Portland, Ore.

Network World senior writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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