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Air Force Seeks Secure Cloud Computing

In a 10-month project, the Air Force has contracted IBM to design a cloud computing environment that can recognize security threats and adapt on the fly.

The Air Force has hired IBM to create a prototype cloud computing environment that meets the security requirements of the U.S. military.

Under a 10-month contract, IBM researchers will design the computing cloud in the company's Bethesda, Md., lab. "Our goal is to demonstrate how cloud computing can be a tool to enable our Air Force to manage, monitor, and secure the information flowing through our network," said Lt. Gen. William Lord, the Air Force's CIO and chief of warfighting integration.

A centerpiece of the environment will be IBM's InfoSphere Streams software, which provides real-time analytics on high volumes of steaming data. The software, which was introduced last year, will be used to monitor the status of information flowing through the cloud and, if necessary, reconfigure on the fly. David McQueeney, CTO of IBM's U.S. federal business unit, says that capability will be particularly useful in maintaining security in the cloud, as botnets and other threats can be identified and defended against as they're detected.

InfoSphere Steams will be used in combination with sensors, monitors, and other detection devices to analyze "massive amounts" of data flowing through the network, provide actionable insights about cyber threats or application failures, and prevent disruptions automatically, according to IBM. "That's the biggest difference about what we're doing here—real-time analytics on how the cloud is performing and making real-time changes to that," said McQueeney.

Security and reliability are two key concerns that government agencies and businesses share as they evaluate cloud computing as an alternative to provisioning IT services from their own data centers. McQueeney said any cloud platform that might result from the 10-month project could potentially be used by other customers in both the public and private sectors.

Commercial cloud service providers are trying to address the security concerns of government customers. Last fall, Google disclosed plans to adapt its cloud services to meet the security and policy requirements of government agencies.

InformationWeek has published a look at the technical and political ramifications of Google's problems in China. Download the report here (registration required).

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