Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, Driving Force Of Federal Cloud, To Vacate Post

"Vivek Kundra, the first-ever federal chief information officer, is planning to leave the White House in August," political news organization POLITICO reported Thursday morning. "Kundra, who has held the position for two-and-a-half years, is leaving the administration to go to Harvard University, the sources said, although it's unclear if he'll be teaching or taking a more research-oriented post."

The Obama administration tapped Kundra in March 2009 to take the reins of the federal IT environment after a highly regarded stint as the CIO of Washington, D.C. Kundra's role was central to Obama's push for the government to embrace modern technologies and create a more transparent federal government.

From the start of his term as federal CIO, Kundra pushed for transparency and open government; dialog with citizens; using technology more effectively in government; and lowering the cost of government IT operations.

In a bid to reduce costs and use technology more effectively, Kundra launched a cloud computing plan for the federal government and created the government's "cloud-first" initiative in which government agencies would examine lower-cost, cloud-based technologies for new projects. As part of the cloud-first plans, the federal government expects to shutter 100 data centers this year, and 800 by 2015. One survey found that the consolidation of national data centers could chop $18.8 billion from the annual federal IT budget.

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"As a government, we too often rely on proprietary, custom IT solutions, instead of leveraging new technology and looking at common solutions to fit our needs," Kundra said during testimony. "By leveraging shared infrastructure and economies of scale, 'light technology' or cloud computing services, present a compelling business model for federal leadership. Agencies are able to measure and pay for only the IT resources they consume, increase or decrease their usage to match requirements and budget constraints, and leverage the shared underlying capacity of IT resources."

Kundra was a driving force behind Apps.gov, a General Services Administration (GSA)-managed online storefront through which government agencies could purchase cloud applications that were approved to run in secure federal environments. Apps.gov was the first major cloud-based initiative to come under Kundra's watch.

Kundra also stumped for cloud standards around security, interoperability and data portability, moves that would help cloud computing take hold and become a viable IT consumption vehicle for federal agencies and consumers alike.

"What's important today is the [development of standards] in the area of security, interoperability and data portability" to ensure information is protected; clouds and the computer applications they support can work together; and content can be moved within and among different clouds without jeopardizing access to or integrity of the data," Kundra said during a march 2010 keynote speech at the Cloud Computing Forum and Workshop hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Kundra was also a force behind the Obama administration's embrace of projects such as the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) cloud and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Pilot program (FedRAMP) and pushed hard for federal security regulations in the cloud.

"As part of the President’s Accountable Government Initiative, we are working to close the IT gap between the private and public sectors, and leverage technology to make government work harder, smarter, and faster for the American people," Kundra has said. "By simplifying how agencies procure cloud-computing solutions, we are paving the way for more cost-effective and energy-efficient service delivery for the public, while reducing the federal government's data center footprint."