A leading federal cloud provider has launched Amazon Web Services (AWS) on its GSA IT-70 contract, giving Amazon yet another boost in what is already a rapidly expanding presence in government.
Laurel, M.D.-based Aquilent made the announcement last week on the heels of news that Microsoft Corp. plans to develop a new multi-tenant cloud community for federal agencies.
The availability of AWS on the General Services Administration Information Technology-70 schedule means federal agencies now have access to a well-tested cloud infrastructure that is compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
The service is available in four of AWS’s infrastructure regions around the world, including a multi-tenant U.S. government-only region called GovCloud.
While agencies have been scrambling to meet a “cloud first” mandate issued by the federal CIO’s office, contracting officers haven’t been able to buy AWS GovCloud on GSA IT-70, according to David Fout, president and CEO of Aquilent, which provides a variety of federal cloud services and is the first to offer AWS GovCloud services to federal agencies via GSA’s widely-used IT procurement schedule.
More than 150 government agencies already leverage AWS for a wide range of cloud applications and services, said Teresa Carlson, vice president of Global Public Sector at Amazon.
“We’ve seen a very, very strong adoption of cloud computing over the last 15 to 18 months,” said Carlson. “Agencies are really starting to take a look at how they are delivering IT services and how can they really cut costs and drive mission.”
And the way in which AWS is structured and offered to agencies is one of the drivers behind its cost-cutting attractiveness, she said.
“They can buy on-demand, they pay for what they use and then they can scale it back down so they’re not constantly paying for a server to be utilized at 100% when they only need it [that much] for five days out of the month,” said Carlson.
Perhaps more important, Amazon has made a deliberate business decision not to “lock agencies in” to a particular set of services or software applications or even to the AWS infrastructure, added Carlson. For example, AWS allows agencies to choose from a wide variety of independent software vendors, including ESRI, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and others. Agencies can opt to purchase those software-as-a-service offerings on-demand or they can bring their own license to the AWS cloud computing infrastructure.
“We don’t lock them in to AWS,” said Carlson. “When a customer comes to AWS, one of the key value propositions is their ability to be able to test out our services very rapidly and for very little cost…and rapidly launch that into a production environment.”
And so far, the strategy seems to be working. Last year, Amazon effectively doubled the global footprint of AWS from four to eight regions around the world. A region consists of groupings of availability zones in which there are clusters of data centers. To date, there are two regions on the West coast of the U.S., one region on the East coast, a GovCloud region, and regions in Brazil, Ireland, Japan and Singapore.
Big Data Success
Although the federal government has struggled to get its arms around the challenge of big data, one of Amazon’s major success stories in federal cloud services involves one of the biggest data sets in the world. The 1,000 Genomes Project at the National Institute of Health‘s National Human Genome Research Institute, which the companies announced on March 29 had been ported to AWS, allows scientists around the world to conduct research and analysis on more than 200 terabytes of data for the first time.
Lisa Brooks, program director of the Genetic Variation Program at the National Institute of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), said the program is focused on sequencing the genomes of about 2,600 people by the end of the year. So far 1,500 have been completed, she said.
“That’s a lot of data,” said Brooks. “Only a few places have the computing resources to store and process this amount of data. So if researchers want to look at this data without having the shell-out the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to provide the computing capacity, it’s actually much easier for them to get the data through the Amazon cloud and conduct computations,” Brooks said.
The overall goal of the 1,000 Genome Project is to provide a complete catalogue of variation across the human genome so that researchers can understand what contributes to the disease process. And it is extremely expensive for researchers around the world to sequence thousands and thousands of samples to conduct research on diseases. “The 1,000 Genome project allows them to skip an entire expensive step and move on to figuring out which variants actually contribute to the disease process,” said Brooks.
But beyond efficiencies and cost-savings, the movement of the 1,000 Genomes Project to AWS is also paying off in terms of the accuracy of the research, Brooks said. “By having multiple groups of researchers call variants, the [the data becomes] more accurate,” she said. “And by having access to the cloud it enables more groups to participate.”
The 1,000 Genomes Project does not currently use any other SaaS offerings from AWS, but they do leverage high- speed data transfer software from Asperasoft and cloud images from CloudBioLinux, said Don Preuss, head of systems at NHGRI. “Aspera has a SaaS offering now that allows any user to license their software on demand, [which is] very useful when moving large amounts of data,” said Preuss in an email to Breaking Gov.
“Our customers want to be able to utilize what they’ve already purchased,” said Amazon’s Carlson. Scientists at NIH “are trying to solve major health problems and can now use this data and scale it up in a way that they’ve never been able to do before,” she said. It’s an example, she said, of “mass data processing and analytics without spending millions of dollars to get it done.”
1. Eliminates security concerns. You no longer have to go into a public shared “cloud,” and instead can leverage the FISMA compliant Federal Community Cloud: AWS GovCloud.
2. Easy to procure. GSA IT-70 is pre-competed and available to entire government, and Aquilent is the first to offer AWS GovCloud on GSA IT-70.
3. Eases Implementation. Moving to the cloud can be challenging, and requires experience focused on the Federal government. Aquilent is the only provider of end-to-end Federal cloud services. Aquilent’s cloud-centric offerings include cloud strategy, architecture, migration, support, security, and application development.
· Federal CIO mandates Cloud First
· Everyone is scrambling to understand that (hence FedRamp trying to define what/which Cloud now)
· Program offices might be interested in AWS GovCloud (because of security it provides – and affordability)
· But Contracting officers can’t buy AWS GovCloud on GSA IT-70…until now.