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AF apps ascend to clouds

Common Computing Environment logo

Common Computing Environment logo

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – The Common Computing Environment managed here provides a home to 21 Air Force applications and has room for countless more.

CCE provides a cloud environment for applications that exist on the Global Combat Support System. GCSS, which are on-premises servers run by Airmen, civilians and contractors at several stateside bases, will soon sunset, potentially leaving logistics and support applications Airmen rely on homeless. The Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks program executive office at Hanscom created a bigger, more modernized home for these applications on the cloud.

“Some apps are built with characteristics that make them a better fit for one cloud service or another,” said 2nd Lt. Stephen Cunningham, a systems engineer on the CCE project. “Our migration pipeline analyzes each application as a matter of course. The results of this analysis will help us determine the best type of host for the app and the plan to get it there.”

Moving applications to the cloud gives them access to all the cloud’s tools and tricks. Migrated apps get nearly unlimited compute-and-store capacity, improved reliability and easier loading of security patches and code deployments. All this delivers capabilities to users faster. C3I&N’s Commoditized Infrastructure Branch is on contract with both Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services clouds, providing customers with the best cloud environment options for their application.

CCE is like using a ferry instead of a bridge to get your car across a river. The ferry can dock at any port. If a driver chooses to cross a bridge, the car can only go to one location on the other side of the river.

The first CCE application went live in March 2018. To get there, the program has had to make initial investments. Each migration costs the U.S. Air Force approximately $446,000, and the total cost for the CCE program since 2015 is $136 million. This shift frees up money and manpower for other requirements, like building better apps and improving network security.

“We’ve got a front door for mission application owners to bring their programs through,” said Ashleigh Allard, a services contractor assigned to outreach for CCE, referring to a diagnostic tracking system she uses to move apps from GCSS to CCE. “They’re pretty positive about the migration when they see the benefits. It really helps them continue to serve customers and lowers some maintenance issues.”

The Department of Defense released a memorandum in 2017 encouraging cloud migration, following many other recommendations from federal agencies across the country. Allard’s outreach efforts are the tactical result of the DoD’s strategic intent to shift much of its in-house computing and server capacity to the cloud, which mirrors similar trends in private sector software and networking.

CCE is able to perform both ‘lift and shift’ and ‘native refactoring’ strategies, meaning they can move apps to the cloud without altering their underlying coding, or quickly go through and ensure a systems façade will be able to function using all the best features of cloud-hosting. The first six applications moved to CCE used ‘lift and shift,’ but Cunningham’s team is working to modernize all Air Force apps so they can take advantage of all cloud-hosting advantages.