Federal Government Takes a Cloud-First Approach to IT

Federal Government Takes a Cloud-First Approach to IT

The White House has been pushing for cloud computing for a while now, but a recent statement provides an additional nudge. Jeffrey Zients, federal chief performance officer, wrote in a November 19 blog post that the Administration aims to shift “the agency default approach to IT to a cloud-first policy as part of the 2012 budget process.” Hardly surprising, everyone from IBM to Savvis Federal Systems is jumping on the federal cloud bandwagon. Here's why.

Check recent history and you'll notice the new Zients blog post seems like an escalation in language compared with the Office of Management and Budget’s FY 2011 budget guidance, which asked agencies to “evaluate cloud computing alternatives.”

Congress has yet to put the 2011 budget into place and is currently funding the government through continuing resolutions. The 2011 fiscal year began Oct 1. The 2012 budget process, meanwhile, is underway.

The cloud-first approach is linked to data center consolidation and the prospect for cost savings. Zients wrote that the current plan is to reduce the government’s “data center footprint by 40 percent by 2015.”

Cloud vendors are obvious beneficiaries of the shift away from in-house IT and toward shared services. Terremark Worldwide recently announced the Federal Communications Commission as a new cloud client. FCC plans to host its Web site in the cloud.

Carpathia and Savvis Federal Systems also are in contention for federal cloud business. Those vendors are among the 11 contractors that captured the General Services Administration’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) contract last month. That contract lets vendors sell virtual machines, cloud storage, and other services to government agencies.

Federal integrators, many of which have been managing federal data centers, are moving into the cloud space. Integrators pursuing the government cloud business include Apptis, CGI Federal and General Dynamics Information Technology, all of which hold GSA IaaS contracts.

IBM Federal and Lockheed Martin are also rolling out government cloud products. IBM earlier this month announced its Federal Community Cloud, a private multi-tenant cloud. Lockheed Martin in October launched a private cloud offering, Starfire Mission Ready Cloud, for federal, state and local government agencies.

The federal cloud arena is ripe for partnering. Cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services are establishing teaming arrangements with federal contractors. Alliance activity is bound to continue as cloud vendors look for contractors with agency relationships and federal procurement expertise, and contractors look for help with cloud technology and business models.

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