Federal CIO Vivek Kundra's planned exit from his position in August won't slow the momentum of federal cloud computing initiatives or have a negative impact on solution providers who sell into the cloud, several cloud VARs said.
Instead, solution providers said Kundra's massive cloud efforts lit the fuse for a cloud computing market that is set to explode with or without Kundra as federal CIO.
The White House announced in a blog post Thursday that Kundra plans to leave his post after two-and-a-half years as the first federal CIO. Kundra will leave as federal CIO in mid-August to take a fellow position at Harvard. An immediate successor was not named.
Kundra has been a major proponent of cloud computing and IT cost cutting as the Obama administration seeks to leverage new and emerging technologies.
While losing Kundra's backing of cloud computing could slow cloud adoption, cloud VARs are confident that the momentum Kundra started in the cloud will continue and national interest in cloud won't wane.
"His leaving introduces risk," said Tony Safoian, CEO of North Hollywood, Calif.-based cloud solution provider SADA Systems. "But the momentum public cloud has will be difficult to stop or slow down. This is now mainstream. It's here to stay."
Rick Marcotte, president and CEO of DLT Solutions, a Herndon, Va.-based government solution provider, said the cloud revolution started by Kundra at a federal level will continue unimpeded.
"Kundra was a driving force behind data center consolidation, increased rigor related to evaluating and creating milestone markers for major federal projects, and harnessing the power of cloud computing to optimize the relationship between taxpayer funds and IT assets," Marcotte said. "Although he is leaving his leadership position, the vision and path he outlined is already in hyper motion across government and industry and will continue unabated. Most of the CIOs and Deputy CIOs across federal IT organizations are 'on board' with the program and won't lose a step even though the primary cheerleader has left the building. Even when Colonel Sanders died, Kentucky Fried Chicken kept on selling."
Keith Nelson, vice president of technology for Vistem Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider that has a federal government IT contract for the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles, said the cloud computing charge will continue despite Kundra's departure.
"I don't think it will stall," he said. "Kundra is a visionary and a generalist. The people underneath him are driving the initiatives. Cloud is unstoppable. It is all about consolidation. There are some real cost savings. We have to cut government costs."
According to Safoian, federal technology initiatives are often viewed as a benchmark for enterprise and other businesses. Having been vetted by Kundra and the feds is almost a "seal of approval for the enterprise," Safoian said, and Kundra worked diligently to put that stamp on cloud computing. SADA has seen that trickle-down effect, scoring several state and local government cloud contracts and working some emerging opportunities in the federal space.
"It's very rare you get someone in this position that is willing to follow a trend, especially a trend that is sort of anti-establishment," Safoian said. "We love what he did in terms of moving the needle."
Nelson, who said about 30 percent of his current projects are cloud-based, said he sees Kundra as an idealist who got frustrated.
"Kundra understood he could not be a true CIO. He couldn't push all the buttons because all the budgets are so disparate and the government is so slow to move," said Nelson. "The ship is hard to turn. He got frustrated. He wanted to move into an environment where he could have an impact. Think about it. He was young in his career jumping from a city to the federal government. That is huge. That is like going from high school to the major leagues. He wasn't used to the frustration of working in a bureaucracy."
Next: Kundra Leaves Behind Vast Legacy In The Cloud
Since joining the Obama administration as the first federal CIO in March 2009, Kundra has been the backbone of several massive federal cloud computing undertakings. He was instrumental in the launch of Apps.gov, a storefront for cloud applications for the federal government. He pushed for cloud standards and stumped for tighter security regulations in the cloud. And Kundra was active in a host of other big-ticket cloud initiatives like the federal consolidation plan which will eliminate 100 federal data centers this year and 800 by 2015. That initiative alone is expected to chop $18.8 billion annually from the federal IT budget.
Kundra also launched the federal government's "cloud-first" initiative in which cloud computing technologies would be among the first types of solutions evaluated for government IT projects.
Joe Vaught, CEO of PCPC Direct, a Houston-based solution provider, said cloud computing's key and Kundra's major cloud initiatives stem from the dramatic cost savings achieved when federal agencies pay month-to-month for IT services rather than plunking down huge sums for IT infrastructure that the government owns and has to maintain. "The key for service providers is to offer the government a monthly lease or rental so the government doesn’t have to come up with $20 billion," Vaught said.
David Hoff, founder and technology vice president for Atlanta-based cloud solution provider Cloud Sherpas, said Kundra set the stage for cloud computing and that legacy will continue.
"He broke down a lot of walls … bringing an app store concept and dashboard concept to the government. That was a first step, " Hoff said. "You need someone transitional that's willing to jump in and take those calculated risks."
Hoff added: "I always saw [Kundra] as kind of an instigator who got the discussions going."
Safoian said Kundra's push for cloud computing was a major step forward for the federal government and the cloud market as a whole. "The federal government was on the leading edge," he said. "Net-net it was great for the market."
Safoian said cloud computing will stick around for years, so it's imperative that Kundra's replacement embrace the cloud and continue what Kundra started and not change or confuse Kundra's cloud message.
Cloud VARs are hopeful that whoever is tapped to replace Kundra as federal CIO has the same drive to adopt emerging and new technologies and keeps the momentum into the cloud rolling. Crisantos Hajibrahim, head of business development for ViWo, a Los Angeles-based solution provider, said that in Kundra's absence, the Obama administration has to be selective with whom they bring in to ensure that the cloud ball keeps rolling.
"The ideal person who comes in is going to be someone from a Web-based or SaaS company; someone in tune with what's going on," Hajibrahim said. "Hopefully, they'll align with the cloud."
Hoff said Kundra's successor won't have as much heavy lifting to keep the federal cloud muscle flexed.
"The hardest part is breaking through," he said. "Once that happens … you don't need as much of a pioneer to push the march forward."
Steven Burke contributed to this article.