The U.S. government has big cloud plans. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra testified to Congress last week about his plans to reduce the number of data centers by as many as 100 this year.
Kundra's aim is to reduce federal data centers by 40 percent within four years. In addition, about 75 programs have been identified as ready to be moved to cloud- or web-based computing.
Last November, the government announced it was undertaking a "cloud-first" strategy, in which the Office of Management and Budget would require that cloud-based solutions be chosen as the default whenever a "secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists." The exception is when the data involves national security or classified information.
The government owns or leases about 2,100 data centers that are larger than 500 square feet. The Department of Defense has about 770, the highest number, and second place is held by the State Department with 361. Each department has also submitted plans for consolidating the data centers, such as the Department of Homeland Security's plan to reduce its 42 facilities to two.
However, while cost-saving is the goal, a reduction plan such as Homeland Security's will cost about $600 million to implement.
Kundra has said he expects to close as many as 800 data centers within a few years, although some governmental officials are suggesting that such a high number is the outer limit of what is possible. Key issues to be worked out include security requirements and procurement.
In December, Kundra instructed federal agencies to identify three services that could be moved to the cloud within 18 months. Agencies can build their own private clouds or utilize industry-based services.
David Powner, director of information-technology management issues at the Government Accountability Office, told news media that the 800 number was a "stretch goal," which he said is good to have but "not necessarily an easy thing to do."
In February, Kundra issued a Federal Cloud Computing Strategy report that set a goal of moving a quarter of the federal $80 billion IT budget to cloud computing. According to some industry observers, nearly a third of governmental agencies have begun to use cloud services, and about an equal portion say they expect to move to cloud services within the next year.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp., said cloud computing, like virtualization, is a mantra that is bombarding the industry, but neither technology is yet dominant.
She noted that, although the cost savings from cloud computing can be a powerful driver, "it isn't clear what the criteria are for the government's outsourcing providers," including service-level agreements and security. She wondered if offshore providers would be utilized, for instance. If so, DiDio said, "it could raise problems with data security."
Posted: 2011-04-20 @ 5:46am PT
I also have a concern about security, and along with it reliability. This includes both physical security of the actual servers, and cybersecurity. There is a lot of cybersnooping going on as it is, so how would moving to the cloud impact things? Beware of unintended consequences.