Federal Cloud Update: The Government Sector's Next Moves

Uncle Sam and the IT industry continue to focus heavily on federal cloud computing. In recent days, MSPmentor has noticed a series of cloud-related news involving the federal government. Here's a rundown of what's happening and the implications for managed services providers.

Among the developments catching our attention:

1. The nation’s chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, authored a report, State of Public Sector Cloud Computing, which shows how cloud computing could become more embedded in government operations. The report states that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget has asked federal agencies to “evaluate cloud computing alternatives as part of their budget submissions for all major IT investments, where relevant.”

2. The General Services Administration earlier this month tweaked its infrastructure-as-a-service procurement, which will award contract to multiple vendors providing virtual machines, cloud storage and Web hosting services. The agency’s request for quotes closes June 15. The winning contractors’ cloud offerings are scheduled for availability on the Apps.gov online store in late 2010. The revised procurement includes greater security requirements.

3. Hosting of the recovery.gov Web site, which aims to give the public a window  into the government’s stimulus spending, moved from an internal data center to Amazon. The switch is expected to save $750,000 over the next 18  months and provide still-greater savings in the following years.

The ability to trim expenses is clearly an important cloud attraction in federal circles. Kundra’s report noted the cloud’s “potential to greatly reduce waste, increase data center efficiency and utilization rates, and lower operating costs.”

Agencies, however, in their cloud enthusiasm, shouldn’t view cost reduction as the end of the story. They still need to support their customers, whether employees using cloud-based applications or constituents obtaining cloud-based services. Those cost savings may not materialize if the service levels aren’t there, users lack adequate training, and the agency’s mission isn’t met.

Ironically, the public sector cloud report lists the City of Los Angeles’ Google Apps ventures as a case study illustrating technology adoption. MSPmentor recently reported on a city memo that indicated a possible delay in the adoption of Google Apps. Google contends that it is addressing the city’s concerns and the deployment is on track.

OMB Watch, a nonprofit research and advocacy group that promotes government transparency, captured the limits of the cloud in a recent blog post regarding Recovery.gov:

“But moving to cloud computing doesn’t change much from a transparency side of things. It isn’t a step towards multi-tier reporting, it doesn’t improve data quality, and it doesn't make it easier to search through Recovery.gov. So while it's great the Board's saving money, and the government’s starting to utilize new technology, new technology can’t fix every problem. Some problems simply require better utilization of the technology you have.”

The more things change... the more they...

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