Dell builds a government cloud of its own

IT vendors are taking the U.S. government’s cloud first initiative seriously. Amazon (S amzn) Web Services and IBM(s ibm) are duking it out for the right to build what was supposed to be a secret CIA cloud. And now Dell(s dell) has a new reference architecture for building an array of dedicated clouds for use by government agencies.

dell-logo Dell Cloud for U.S. Government builds on Red Hat’s OpenStack implementation and Dell’s platform-as-a-service component will be based on Red Hat’s OpenShift. That choice of OpenStack as basis is interesting because Dell recently nixed plans to offer an OpenStack-based public cloud but also said its private cloud offerings would still draw upon the OpenStack open-source stack. For the record, Red Hat’s OpenStack is technically still in preview although it’s likely that general availability will be announced this week at its Red Hat Summit.  OpenShift became generally available yesterday.

The importance of security clearances

The vendor is working to attain FedRAMP security certification for its platform. Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program accreditation makes it easier for a company to deploy its technology across agencies and organizations without having to repeat a lot of the processes. Autonomic Resources and CGI Federal were the first vendors to get the FedRAMP nod. Amazon’s GovCloud made the grade in May and Hewlett-Packard and Lockheed got the nod last week. More than a dozen providers are expected to clear the FedRAMP hurdle by year’s end with many more expected to do so by 2014 when FedRAMP certification becomes mandatory.

These Dell clouds were designed to meet specific requirements for government work, a company spokesman said. There will be a FedRAMP-grade multitenant cloud on the docket as well as an implementation that meets Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) requirements for protecting data security — an interesting concept at a time when the NSA’s PRISM surveillance scandal roils around us.

Still, there’s a ton of money at stake — the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that a quarter of the total $80 billion government IT budget is moving to the cloud. That, and the fact that every legacy IT provider and a raft of newer cloud companies are all angling for action, means the competition for this business will be fierce.

Photo courtesy of Flicker user chucka_nc