Federal Government Turning Eyes To The Cloud

Federal agencies are ready to embrace cloud computing, according to a recent survey conducted at the March FOSE federal government technology trade show.

The survey, in which IT management vendor ScienceLogic polled more than 100 FOSE attendees, found that one in three federal IT professionals have cloud computing initiatives planned for 2010, a massive jump from 12 percent in 2009.

Additionally, 58 percent of federal IT workers surveyed said cloud computing saw the largest increase in importance, a 17 percent increase from 2009’s 41 percent. ScienceLogic credits the increased interest in cloud computing to the Obama administration's open embracing of cloud technologies and such projects as the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) cloud, the U.S. General Services Administration's apps.gov storefront for federally-approved cloud applications and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Pilot program (FedRAMP), which aims to aggregate cloud computing standards and ease agency certification processes

’The shift to cloud computing is in process, and as the largest IT buyer in the world, the federal government acts as a barometer for just how massive it will be and how quickly the shift will occur,’ said ScienceLogic CEO David Link in a statement. ’The cloud has so many advantages for the federal government, that it makes sense for agencies to utilize the technology to develop more agile, scalable, and flexible IT infrastructure to manage mission-critical operations.’

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While the survey didn’t specify exactly what type of applications agencies are planning to move to the cloud, federal solution providers said that the results jibe with where the market is heading and federal agencies are paying closer attention to cloud computing.

’The government is serious about a few things: It’s serious about cloud computing; it’s serious about consolidating data centers; and it’s serious about open government and making data sets available,’ said Van Ristau, CTO of DLT Solutions, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider. ’However, the government has not yet full defined what it expects by way of security.’

So far, according to the ScienceLogic survey, only 7 percent of federal agencies queried have deployed cloud computing services. Still, roughly 17 percent said private clouds are on their lists of major IT initiatives for 2010 and 13 percent said public clouds are topping their federal want lists.

Ristau, however, said he sees a hybrid model taking more of a hold in the federal government. He said agencies will leverage internal private clouds for applications they want closer control over and public clouds for customer-facing applications.

Regardless of how they do it, Ristau said the federal government is ’absolutely going to the cloud.’

The main hold up is figuring out security and certification and accreditation (CNA).

Still, Ristau said that federal CIO Vivek Kundra and CTO Aneesh Chopra identifying cloud computing as a key initiative in budget guidance is an impetus for federal agencies embracing the clouds, and likely fueled the survey results.

’They know they have to use the cloud,’ he said of federal agencies, adding that many are still trying to determine exactly how they’ll leverage cloud infrastructure going forward. ’They just really have to parse what it is. Cloud computing itself is too broad.’