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Army Plans Private Cloud

APC2, the Army Private Cloud, will be a cornerstone of a broader data center consolidation initiative that aims to reduce the number of Army data centers from 200 to less than 20.

The Army is pushing forward with plans to deploy a private cloud computing environment. Last week, it issued a request for proposals for the project, which will be one of the cornerstones of a broader data center consolidation initiative that aims to reduce the number of Army data centers from 200 to less than 20.

The Army Private Cloud, also known as APC2, will be contracted out in two separate pieces, and could cost as much as $249 million over the five-year lifespan of those contracts, according to the RFP and associated documents.

The aim of the effort, the Army says in a statement of work accompanying the RFP, is to reduce cost and energy use while improving the Army's cybersecurity posture and speed of innovation. A push for "quick and flexible" deployment of apps is a key driver of the APC2 strategy, as is the need for increased uptime.

"The vision is to provide private cloud computing capabilities in a manner that employs existing, best of breed, commercially available services to ensure rapid migration, easily expandable and adaptable cloud computing services, cost advantages, and responsive support services that enhance the end user experience, while fully in compliance with the information assurance requirements of the DoD," the statement of work says.

APC2's functionality will track a standard definition of cloud computing written by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, according to a statement of work accompanying the Army's RFP. That means APC2 will include on-demand self-service, broad network-based accessibility, multi-tenancy, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and metered service, among other "essential attributes." APC2 will operate on both the unclassified NIPRNet and classified SIPRNet networks.

The cloud will be able to run (at least) Windows, Linux, Unix and Solaris environments, support Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 and Sybase databses, and will have virtualized storage and computing resources.

As for the underlying infrastructure, APC2 will consist of two primary physical pieces, the first being a conventional private cloud environment in fixed data centers and the second being mobile, containerized data centers "that can meet urgent needs in contingency operations or where rapid or temporary cloud computing is needed."

The fixed data centers being contracted out for the first piece of APC2 could be contractor- or government-owned and contractor-operated, and inside or outside the continental United States, according to the statement of work.

The Army isn't ruling out the use of commercial data centers as the hosting facilities for APC2. In fact, it seems to be encouraging it. "Since dedicated commercial data centers with existing Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network and Secret Internet Protocol Router Network connectivity are available with proven technology, the Army believes there are cost and performance advantages that can be realized by utilizing these centers for the Army Private Cloud requirements," the statement of work says.

Even leaving the door open for considering a commercially-owned and operated data center represents a bit of a shift in Army thinking. In the past, the Army's signaled an unwillingness to consider commercial services, but the statement of work says only that, if hosted in a commercial data center, "the Army Private Cloud will be an enclave separated from the Contractors public cloud so that an appropriate level of security is maintained for DOD data."

As for the mobile piece of APC2, the military has been using containerized data centers for years, longer than they have been used in the commercial sector. In a sample task order, the Army lays out one possible scenario for their use: providing IT support to the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, the contractors winning the APC2 contracts will be responsible for a broad cross-section of the operation of APC2, including consulting, network management, cybersecurity support, certification and accreditation support, application migration, and provision of the actual data centers.

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