Amazon Web Services today announced the launch of a second cloud computing area dedicated to hosting top-secret classified information for the federal government.
The AWS Top Secret-West region, which includes the CIA and the National Security Agency, provides increased regional availability and robustness of AWS cloud services for US intelligence and defense agencies, including the CIA and the NSA, to host, analyze, and run applications.
AWS Top Secret-West is the company’s second commercial cloud that is air-gapped—or isolated from the rest of the internet—for classified applications. AWS Top Secret-East, which has been hosting the government’s top secret data since 2014, is now joined by the new region.
AWS does not specify the region’s location, other than to state it is “over 1,000” miles distant from AWS Top Secret-East in northern Virginia.
“Customers in the United States defense, intelligence, and national security communities can deploy multi-region architectures to achieve the highest levels of resiliency and availability essential to their most critical national security missions,” AWS Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector Max Peterson wrote in a blog post on Monday. “They also acquire access to new globally dispersed workloads and mission users.”
AWS obtained a $600 million cloud computing deal with the CIA over eight years ago, and the new cloud region comes almost eight years later. Since then, the intelligence community’s usage of commercial cloud services has grown dramatically, as has AWS’ investment in those unique cloud customers, including its new region.
Only one of AWS’ current rivals for federal business, Microsoft, has received government accreditations required to store top secret classified data, as announced by the company in August.
The CIA revealed in November 2020 that AWS and Microsoft were two of five companies—along with IBM, Oracle, and Google—to be given its Commercial Cloud Enterprise, or C2E contract, which could be worth “tens of billions” of dollars over the next 15 years, according to procurement materials. The Pentagon said in November that AWS, Microsoft, Oracle, and Google will compete on the forthcoming multibillion-dollar Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, or JWCC, deal, after terminating its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract.
The National Security Agency is also investing in commercial cloud computing services, giving AWS a $10 billion deal in August to update its principal data repository. Microsoft appealed the award to the Government Accountability Office, which recommended in October that the agency re-evaluate both businesses’ proposals.
Acting Intelligence Community Chief Information Officer Mike Waschull explained why commercial cloud computing is so important to defense and intelligence activities in an interview with Nextgov in October. Washull claims that the cloud provides a scalable environment in which a combination of open-source and classified information may be combined for various purposes like as processing, storage, or analysis, and that the cloud also aids in the retirement of aging hardware systems and data centers.
“We’re taking a serious look at our data centers and, where it’s appropriate, we’re seeking to close them down and retire them in favor of migrating to the commercial cloud,” Waschull said.
The fight for government cloud cash is a microcosm of the competition for domination in a worldwide cloud computing market that might soon be worth $1 trillion as practically every major private corporation invests in cloud services. Since the technology’s infancy, third parties such as Gartner have recognized AWS as the market leader in cloud computing, but the firm was also the first to cater especially to government customers.
AWS introduced GovCloud (US-West) in 2011, making it the first commercial cloud provider to meet the federal government’s demanding security and compliance criteria for hosting unclassified government workloads. In a booming federal cloud market, practically every major cloud service provider now offers government solutions for unclassified workloads. According to Bloomberg Government estimates, AWS is worth over $7 billion, but Peterson claims the company isn’t slacking down on innovation.
“With the debut of AWS Top Secret-West today, we continue to serve mission workloads across the full spectrum of US government classifications,” Peterson stated. “As we collaborate with our clients to develop new technologies, they will be able to complete their tasks with more speed, agility, and security.”