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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Mentions CIA Private Cloud Contract in 60 Minutes Interview

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In an interview with Charlie Rose for 60 Minutes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos mentioned the secretive cloud his company is building for the US Central Intelligence Agency, casually confirming that it will be a private cloud – something that the public cloud provider has been previously unwilling to undertake.

Amazon Web Services was given a government contract worth roughly $600 million to provide cloud services to the CIA was given to Amazon Web Services after IBM withdrew from a series of legal challenges to the bidding procedure.

In the interview aired Sunday, Bezos made a rare comment on the CIA cloud:

Charlie Rose: Does that present any conflict for you, the fact that, that you provide the cloud that the CIA uses for its data?

Jeff Bezos: We’re building what’s called a private cloud for them, Charlie, because they don’t want to be on the public cloud.

While it might seem obvious that given the extremely secretive nature of the CIA would not share infrastructure with any other organizations, this could signal a change in Amazon’s business philosophy. The company has strongly favored public cloud computing as the most cost effective and scalable option for IT infrastructure.

Amazon left hints that the CIA cloud would be one of the company’s early forays into private cloud according to reports from Network World at the Amazon re:Invent conference last month. AWS head Andy Jassy said the CIA deal would involve Amazon hardware and networking, but AWS Chief Information Security Officer Stephen Schmidt, reportedly said that access would not be given through traditional network connections.

This gives no indication on whether the private cloud will be physically on-premise at a CIA facility, or if authorized individuals will access hardware in an Amazon facility via a private subnet, secure VPN or other private means.

Still, a handful of commenters have noted that Bezos’ nonchalant embrace even of the term “private cloud” could mean a departure from some of the company’s core principles. GigaOm’s Barb Darrow writes, “[A]t AWS Re:invent last month, top AWS execs Andy Jassy and Adam Selipsky went to great pains to not characterize that installment as a private cloud. That’s because the religion at AWS is that there is no cloud other than public cloud.”

About the Author

David Hamilton is a Toronto-based technology journalist who has written for the National Post and other news outlets. He has covered the hosting industry internationally for the Web Host Industry Review with particular attention to innovative hosting solutions and the issues facing the industry. David is a graduate of Queen’s University and the Humber College School of Media Studies.

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