Air Force and Army Clouds Debate: Commercial or Gov’t?

Air Force and Army Clouds Debate: Commercial or Gov’t?

It is now official: cloud computing now has serious gov cred. We recently learned that the Air Force was strongly considering the possibility of leaping into the cloud, as a strategy to slash the girth of maintenance and operations in their budget, as well as to tighten security measures. Many readers will wince at that last aim; cloud computing and great security are hardly synonymous, they will muse. The Air Force has nevertheless honed in on several of the cloud’s virtues from a military perspective.

These advantages may lie in cloud’s capacity for “zero” and “thin clients;” the former entails the classic cloud computing setup of just a keyboard, monitor, and mouse, no additional processor to be found. A “thin client” expands on the “zero client” with the addition of an integrated processor, ideal for graphics and media — which might come in handy for an everyday military operation, we think. (Wink, wink.)

Both the cloud’s “zero” and “thin” clients would actually enhance security. The lack of physical processing power prevents someone from uploading software, reducing the risk of virus contraction. Updating these computing units is a snap via the cloud, since one click can disseminate a major change to all relevant units. The clients would also liberate Air Force personnel to flit between computer terminals more quickly, since their data would be stored — and protected — up yonder.

Word recently broke that the Army has also worked up a notion to hop aboard the cloud. The imposing military branch presented nine cloud-enabled companies with contracts, including Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Northrop Grumman. Like the Air Force, the Army is seeking to slim down and economize. Unlike the Air Force, the Army appears to have already decided to focus on the possibilities of a commercially nurtured cloud. The airborne military branch continues to waver in a decision between a commercial or government cloud provider.

Commercial cloud computing, the Air Force holds, would offer a greater amount of monetary savings. A government cloud proposal, in contrast, could lead to more taut barriers vis-a-vis data protection and security. It’s a choice of frugality against frugality over defense, both of which are key aims that the military at large looks to espouse.

We leave it to you readers: if you were heading the Air Force, which type of cloud structure would you select?

By Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman is a freelance writer currently based in New York City. He's moved into writing about cloud computing from substantial work in culture and the arts. He earned his undergraduate degree in English at Stanford and has studied at Oxford and Cambridge.

One Response to Air Force and Army Clouds Debate: Commercial or Gov’t?

  1. Jeff, great article. I was wondering if you had any insight into why the Air Force believe commercial cloud computing would be less expensive. What type of competitive edge do firms like IBM have over incumbents like Raytheon and Lockheed?


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