dambuster - stock.adobe.com

MoD issues revised cloud strategy as it prepares to move top-secret data off-premise by 2025

The Ministry of Defence has updated its cloud strategy, as it prepares to move more of its highly classified data and workloads off-premise in the years to come

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is revising its cloud strategy and embarking on a push to ensure even its most highly classified forms of data are moved off-premise by 2025.

The government department has issued a 39-page strategy document that sets out its plans to “revisit”  the cloud migration work it has already done because its “technology core” remains “too fragmented, fragile, insecure and obsolescent” and is jeopardising its threat response.

“Getting greater, near real-time analysis of rapidly changing data to combat modern threats is forcing us to revisit our approach to cloud as a means to address legacy application shortfalls,” the document stated.

“We are not yet exploiting emerging technologies at pace and scale. We have too often traded out technology refresh and have not driven sufficient integration and commonality. Continuing down this path will prevent us from exploiting emerging technologies at the pace and scale required to deliver the defence purpose.”

The MoD has several cloud initiatives underway already, including the Cirrus programme, which is focused on delivering cloud and hosting services that can accommodate multiple classifications of data for the defence sector’s users.

The Cirrus programme’s remit also covers the rationalisation of the Ministry’s datacentre estate and the retirement of obsolete legacy systems.

The document confirms that, to date, 400 workloads carrying the “official” data classification have moved to the public cloud, but now attention must turn to repeating this process for the Ministry’s “secret” and “top secret” data, too. “So far, we have established hyperscale cloud services at ‘official’ and increased the maturity and evolution of MODCloud, which now offers a mix of public, private and hybrid cloud services.”

Read more about government cloud strategies

MODCloud is the brainchild of the MoD’s Defence Digital department and essentially consists of a list of approved cloud providers the Defence sector is authorised to use, with Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) known to be included on it.

According to data shared with Computer Weekly by public sector-focused analyst Tussell, the MoD has awarded 162 cloud-related contracts with a combined value of close to £211m since 2020.

The MoD strategy document added: “The steps made to date laid the foundations, but we need a step change for a solution to be seamless to deploy, secure by design, and cost-effective at scale. There are required changes that we can no longer underestimate or delay.”

A foundational part of the MoD’s cloud work to date includes the creation of what it has termed the Digital Backbone, which it describes as being used to deliver a secure, hyperscale cloud ecosystem to address the needs of multiple data classifications.

The functionality provided by the Digital Backbone is essential because the defence sector needs edge compute capabilities, which can only be made possible by having access to scalable cloud services, the document stated.

Multi-cloud approach

The Department will be pursuing a multi-cloud approach to sourcing these off-premise capabilities, because no one supplier will be able to address the “complexity of Defence’s requirements” nor its “evolving ambition” or scalability demands, according to the document. 

“By 2025, the services required by game-changing military capabilities will be available across Defence, accelerating our level of cloud consumption,” the document continued. “We will take advantage of evergreen solutions to prevent future obsolescence, and to ensure immediate access to the latest technologies, driving the pace of modernisation.

“By 2025, we will use cloud platforms as the foundation on which to build capabilities in big data, advanced analytics, automation and synthetics. We will spend the majority of our compute expenditure investing in strategic modern platforms, rather than maintaining obsolete legacy platforms.”

Elsewhere in the document, the organisation said its aim is to be “cloud-native” as much as possible, with members of the Defence community encouraged to take an MODCloud-first approach to procuring services.

On the topic of procurement, the document confirmed the Department will lean on the Crown Commercial Service’s existing hyperscale-focused cloud compute framework to purchase the services it needs to host its “official” workloads.

However, the Ministry is also planning to create a separate framework for use by the entire government for the procurement of cloud services that will be used to host “secret” classified data, which is earmarked for launch in late 2023.

Read more on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Data Center
Data Management