Amazon’s Private Cloud for the CIA: It’s About the Public Cloud

Squeezing information out of the intelligence community is haphazard at best, but “reliable” sources are saying that the CIA has enlisted Amazon.com to build a Private Cloud for them. It’s too bad that nobody is speaking on the record about this deal, because it raises some interesting questions.

With Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the undisputed Public IaaS leader, Amazon has clearly gone all in with their bet on Public Cloud. As AWS pushes into the enterprise market, they continue to add capabilities to their Public Cloud offering to meet the stringent security and governance needs of most enterprises, including the US federal government. After all, that’s what Amazon’s GovCloud Community Cloud is all about.

The CIA’s stringent security requirements, however, preclude it from joining GovCloud, but they want all the benefits of the Public Cloud environment. The most obvious question is whether this deal is an indication that Amazon has doubts about the Public Cloud model, and is opportunistically chasing Private Cloud dollars. But that’s not how I read this situation. In reality, this deal is all about the Public Cloud. Who better to purchase a “Public-like” Cloud from than Amazon? In other words, to understand this deal it’s essential to look at it from the perspective of the customer rather than the service provider.

From Amazon’s perspective, the purported $600 million is a hefty chunk of change to be sure, but my guess is that even all those zeroes wouldn’t be enough for Amazon if the project detracted from their Public Cloud model. Instead, Amazon is able to give an important customer the best of both worlds: all the capabilities of AWS on the CIA’s private network. Such a move validates Amazon’s Public Cloud model, rather than detracting from it.

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