Just because computing is done in the cloud, that doesn't mean it has to be insecure and subject to outages. Or so says the U.S. Defense Department who just put into operation their cloud computing services for military personnel. Originally launched a year ago, the platform, called RACE (Rapid Access Computing Environment), was initially used for the testing and development of new applications. Now, the military says RACE is ready to go live...complete with 99.999% uptime - the same as their regular computing environment. Take that, Google!

Earlier this week, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) announced that the RACE platform was now going into production mode and will be used to deliver cloud-based applications to military personnel. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Henry Sienkiewicz, the technical program director of DISA's computing services and RACE team, says the RACE platform is far more secure and stable than commercial cloud services, such as those offered by Google.

He notes that the service-level agreements (SLAs) for all the hosted applications are the same as those offered in the operation's traditional on-site computing environment - that is, 99.999% uptime. Google only offers 99.9% as does Amazon S3...and yes, those extra digits make a world of difference.

In addition, DISA also uses the same information assurance process (the process of managing information-related risks) for the RACE applications as it does for any apps running on the traditional, on-site computing platform. They've even cut the security accreditation process from 80 days to 40 thanks to built-in information insurance controls in RACE. 

One of the most obvious benefits of a cloud computing infrastructure, though, is the speed of deployment. The cloud platform has cut the acquisition time for a new server from 6 months to 24 hours - a change that means DISA will now be able to rapidly deploy new applications to the military in record time. "That's a must for worldwide missions with ever-changing computing requirements," says Sienkiewicz.

RACE runs using VMware on HP blade servers. Defense Department customers can choose either Microsoft Windows or Red Hat Linux and are able to configure their server with up to 4 CPUs, 8 GBs of memory and up to a terabyte of storage. Test servers are $500 per month and production servers are $1200 per month. Next year, RACE will be deployed on the DoD's classified network (SIPRNet) as well.