The Air Force has enlisted “Big Blue” itself, IBM, to develop a worldwide cloud computing infrastructure. The architecture would encompass nine major commands, nearly 100 bases, and 700,000 active military personnel around the world.
Essentially, “cloud computing” refers to software applications and other functions that are “rented” online rather than hosted on company servers. As IBM states, “The cloud model strengthens the resiliency of mission-critical applications by removing dependency on underlying hardware.” Obviously, this carries natural appeal for the military, where security is paramount.
The military takes security very seriously—far more so than its civilian and government counterparts. In 2008, a pervasive computer virus (Agent.btz, a variation of the "SillyFDC" worm) prompted the DOD to ban USB drives (later reinstated under restricted conditions). Cloud computing would allay this concern—“Applications can be easily moved from one system to another in the event of system failures or cyber attacks,” said IBM.
According to Lieutenant General William Lord, Chief Information Officer and Chief, Warfighting Integration, for the U.S. Air Force, “Our goal is to demonstrate how cloud computing can be a tool to enable our Air Force to manage, monitor and secure the information flowing through our network.” “We examined the expertise of IBM's commercial performance in cloud computing and asked them to develop an architecture that could lead to improved performance within the Air Force environment to improve all operational, analytical and security capabilities,” he said.