IBM Joins Google, Microsoft In Government Cloud Arena

IBM has launched a new private cloud environment to lure government organizations into cloud computing, a move that boosts the computer giant's cloud profile in an area that has become a new battleground for other cloud heavyweights like Google and Microsoft.

IBM's new Federal Community Cloud is specifically designed to give government organizations a secure, private cloud environment. It is part of IBM's Federal Data Centers (FDC) that are certified to host federal clients.

IBM said the new Federal Community Cloud (FCC) will enabled data and services to reside in security and salable data centers and be accessed by federal organizations at a lower cost. The environment provides a private multi-tenant cloud and access to distributed information and analytics solutions via cloud-based applications. IBM said it offers flexibility, speedier time to development and reduced costs. IBM is also offering access to consulting services and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), with Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) And Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) coming in the future.

The Federal Community Cloud is working to obtain the Fed Ramp certification to meet FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) compliance standards in according with Federal Security Guidelines.

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At the start, IBM has identified 15 federal government organizations that will work with the private cloud environment, including the Department of Housing & Urban Development, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture and Department of Health & Human Services. IBM will work with these agencies to offer cloud and data center capabilities to build, manage, operate and analyze their computing environments.

Next: IBM Joins The Competition

Additionally, IBM unveiled new cloud capabilities for state and local governments. The Municipal Shared Services Cloud uses a combination of data analytics and SaaS to integrate software from multiple vendors and Web-based applications onto a single platform that municipal governments can tap into and share.

IBM's move to offer cloud services and environments to government agencies follows a growing trend in the cloud. Earlier this year, cloud powerhouse Google unveiled its Google Apps for Government offering, a version of its Google Apps cloud e-mail and collaboration suite tailored specifically to meet the needs of government agencies.

Microsoft too is hammering its cloud message into government ears. In February the company launched its Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) Federal, a government-friendly version of its suite of cloud applications.

Microsoft's and Google's battle to control the government cloud has also sparked a lawsuit in which Google is suing the Department of the Interior alleging that its Google Apps offerings were unfairly passed over in the bidding process for the DOI's cloud email and messaging contract. The Interior Department chose Microsoft BPOS Federal.

The spotlight on cloud computing in the federal government comes as national CTO Vivek Kundra pushes for cloud computing standards and interoperability which will enable the federal government to better embrace cloud technologies. A survey conducted earlier this year at FOSE found that one in three federal IT professional have cloud computing initiatives planned for sometime in 2010, a massive jump compared to the 12 percent that were looking at cloud computing in 2009.