Federal Government Makes A Push Into Cloud Computing

The U.S. government is undertaking an effort to promote cloud computing by requiring federal agencies to deliver one IT service in the cloud within 12 months and two more within 18 months. While the initiative is expected to save the government $14 billion in its first year, a survey shows there are budgetary and security issues that may make the transition difficult.

April 21, 2011

2 Min Read
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The U.S. government is undertaking an effort to promote cloud computing by requiring federal agencies to deliver one IT service in the cloud within 12 months and two more within 18 months. While the initiative is expected to save the government $14 billion in its first year, a survey shows there are budgetary and security issues that may make the transition difficult.

A survey of government CIOs and other IT managers funded by VMware and conducted by an organization called MeriTalk reveals that 64% of those surveyed believe that cloud computing will reduce expenses and improve the delivery of government services. The same percentage also believe that cloud-delivered services will improve telecommuting and mobility for federal workers. In addition to the $14 billion in IT costs savings--from a total $35.7 billion annual budget--cloud computing is expected to produce annual savings of about 30% in reduced IT costs due to server consolidation, reduced IT staffing and other areas.

"Cloud computing allows you to take a vast number of resources and enable them to be elastic pools of resources. To take advantage of each others investments provides a ton of potential cost savings," says Aileen Black, VP of public sector business at VMware. VMware's virtualization technology is a critical component of any cloud computing service, she adds.

The survey also showed that agencies are most likely to deploy only private cloud services and little, if any, public cloud services. The IT services most likely to be deployed on clouds first are e-mail, administrative applications and collaboration platforms.

While acknowledging long-term savings from cloud computing, those surveyed said budget constraints will limit how much they can invest in the cloud. Sixty-one percent of CIOs and 31% of other IT managers cited budget issues as an obstacle. Black says most federal IT budgets are assigned to operation and maintenance and not to spending on new technology.Security issues were cited as another obstacle to cloud adoption by 71% of CIOs and 66% of IT managers. Agencies such as the Social Security Administration and those regulating health care have to keep personal information private, while intelligence and defense-related agencies have their own security issues.

The government this year launched a program called FedRAMP, which is intended as a consolidated point for government-wide security authorization and risk management activities related to cloud computing systems. However, the survey revealed that 64% of respondents are not optimistic FedRAMP will help secure the cloud, and 56% don't think it will speed cloud adoption.

But VMware's Black says cloud technology can enhance security. "In anything, there's going to be best practices, and it depends on the IT people to implement security practices," she says.

See more on this topic by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports 2011 Salary Survey: Government (subscription required).

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