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Summary:

Who better to show the CIA how to build a cloud than Amazon Web Services? No one’s confirming anything but an AWS-CIA contract would make sense for both parties.

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photo: Thinkstock

Now here’s a story that will probably never get confirmed:  Federal Computer Week is reporting that the Central Intelligence Agency has contracted cloud kingpin Amazon Web Services to build a private cloud for the super secret spy agency.

The report, as you might expect, doesn’t name its sources, but contends that Amazon will help build private cloud infrastructure that will enable the CIA to “keep up with emerging technologies like big data in a cost-effective manner not possible under the CIA’s previous cloud efforts.” The contract is for up to $600 million over the next 10 years, according to FCW, which said neither Amazon nor the CIA would comment.

A CIA spokesman, as expected, declined comment saying: “As a general rule, the CIA does not publicly disclose details of our contracts, the identities of our contractors, the contract values, or the scope of work.”

The news, if true, is striking because it would show AWS, the largest public cloud provider, building an actual private cloud, observers said.

A collaboration like this makes sense for the CIA, given the U.S. government’s big “cloud first” initiative, which holds that the use of cloud computing technologies will save money and make government more responsive and flexible to its constituencies. And it would give Amazon a test bed to show — at least within the tight-lipped intelligence community — that it can build mission-critical and super secure private clouds for their use.

Amazon, as well as some legacy IT players,  has struggled on that whole private cloud front. Amazon Web Services launched Virtual Private Cloud capabilities four years ago and last week said it is broadening their use. It also hosts GovCloud, which is cordoned off from the rest of AWS, for government accounts.

For what it’s worth, Amazon’s biggest and oldest data center farm, US-East, is in Ashburn, Virg., and it is reportedly expanding its presence there with another huge data center farm. The CIA is based about 20 miles away in Langley, Virg.

I will update this story if I hear back from Amazon and this is something we’ll be sure to ask  Ira “Gus” Hunt,  CTO of the Central Intelligence Agency, when he speaks Wednesday at GigaOM’s Structure Data event in New York. I’m betting he keeps mum.

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  1. Really interesting that the agency didn’t look to one of the large OpenStack companies on this project… I guess the size of what AWS has built out thus far was persuasive…

    1. When did Amazon start building “private”clouds ?

      Amazon likes to spread its infrastructure around. So I am assuming CIA is being hosted in the Amazon datacenters like the VPC ? That also does not make sense because — well its the CIA and secrets within secrets and all that jazz.

      Truly weird.

      1. that’s what makes this so interesting an amazon PRIVATE cloud??? woo hoo

  2. “the cloud” is just server farms .. so the cia wants to store more stuff .. no one asks why, just goes along for the money

    1. I think we can all imagine what the cloud is for. things like this: http://gigaom.com/2012/07/24/does-the-nsa-have-a-file-on-you-probably/

  3. It’s an interesting strategy when you consider recent investment activity from the US Intelligence community as well. Their investments in 10gen (MongoDB) and others show that these technologies are being used…so also getting involved with the infrastructure most commonly used to power these products makes sense.

    Big data might be a buzzword but it’s all about analysing data at large scale, of which the CIA is likely to be doing. Palantir is a great example of this but no doubt they’re building their own software using databases like MongoDB and the flexibility you can get from the AWS products.

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