Although the use of clouds to enable social networks adds a coolness factor that helps fuel industry hype, clouds are no less beneficial at large enterprises and government agencies, which are building clouds for the use of their own employees. The Department of Defense's Defense Information Systems Agency built RACE (Rapid Access Computing Environment), a cloud of computing resources for use by DOD personnel."When Katrina hit, we had to send forces," Rivera said. "It would have been nice to have been able to provision an OS environment on the cloud where the first responders could have pulled the necessary data." To use RACE, DOD "customers" swipe a card and pay by the month for an environment that can be provisioned within 24 hours. A customer can increase the capacity at any time; if it is unused, it will be turned off at the end of a month. A charge of $500 per month covers a VMware-based Windows or LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP) virtual environment. Although a suite of applications will be available when RACE goes live in October, users can deploy their own applications in their cloud environment, Rivera said.
Alfred Rivera, director of computing services for DISA, said commercial clouds such as Amazon.com's EC2 inspired the DOD cloud, which was created with the help of Hewlett-Packard. RACE, which Rivera likens to the PAAS (platform as a service) model, can be used not only by support staff but also by combat forces and those responding to disasters.