Tuesday, May 12, 2009

White House Leading Cloud Computing Charge

Very interesting developments today from the U.S. federal government on cloud computing. Bob Marcus at the OMG has sent me an overview of a White House Cross-Cutting Programs Document released earlier. The document outlines the administration's 2010 budget requests. According to the document White House officials want agencies to launch pilot projects that identify common services and solutions and that focus on using cloud computing. I think the most important aspect of this announcement is that "cloud computing" is now being mandated from the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Marcus has some great insights into the opportunity saying; "I think the leadership from above offers an opportunity to put in place a coherent strategy. In my past industry experience, I have recommended setting up an enterprise Coordination Team to guide the introduction of emerging technologies. The basic idea is for this Team to provide expertise, recommend standardizations, and facilitate reuse for individual projects while documenting best practices, lessons learned from experience, and future directions."

He goes on to say "Without this coordination, there is a strong probability that many pilot projects will have successful local Cloud Deployments but it will not be possible to share resources across projects and agencies. (This was one of the downsides of federal SOA implementations.) . Even worse possibilities are inappropriate Cloud Deployments that have publicized security, performance, reliability, and/or cost problems. (This often happens when inexperienced project planners deal directly only with vendors)."

I also believe a Coordination Team makes a lot of sense and is potentially another reason to create a cloud computing trade association, something I have been actively pushing. Fact is that currently there is no unified way for the federal government to interface with the emerging cloud industry other then a series of invite only insider "summits". I also think there is an opportunity for the federal government through organization such as NIST to not only draft common definitions for cloud computing but also federal policies dictating its usage. Imagine a federal mandate advocating cloud interoperability among any federal cloud vendors?


Optimizing Common Services and Solutions/Cloud-Computing Platform

(From http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2010/assets/crosscutting.pdf Page 157-158)

The Federal technology environment requires a fundamental reexamination of investments in technology infrastructure. The Infrastructure Modernization Program will be taking on new challenges and responsibilities. Pilot projects will be implemented to offer an opportunity to utilize more fully and broadly departmental and agency architectures to identify enterprise-wide common services and solutions, with a new emphasis on cloud-computing. The pilots will test a variety of services and delivery modes, provisioning approaches, options, and opportunities that cloud computing brings to Federal Government. Additionally, the multiple approaches will focus on measuring service, cost, and performance; refining and scaling pilots to full capabilities; and providing financial support to accelerate migration. These projects should lead to significant savings, achieved through basic changes in future Federal information infrastructure investment strategies and elimination of duplicative operations at the agency level.

Cloud-computing is a convenient, on-demand model for network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. The cloud element of cloud-computing derives from a metaphor used for the Internet, from the way it is often depicted in computer network diagrams. Conceptually it refers to a model of scalable, real-time, internet-based information technology services and resources, satisfying the computing needs of users, without the users incurring the costs of maintaining the underlying infrastructure. Examples in the private sector involve providing common business applications online, which are accessed from a web browser, with software and data stored on the “cloud” provider’s servers.

Implementing a cloud-computing platform incurs different risks than dedicated agency data centers. Risks associated with the implementation of a new technology service delivery model include policy changes, implementation of dynamic applications, and securing the dynamic environment. The mitigation plan for these risks depends on establishing a proactive program management office to implement industry best practices and government policies in the management of any program. In addition, the Federal community will need to actively put in place new security measures which will allow dynamic application use and information-sharing to be implemented in a secure fashion. In order to achieve these goals, pilot programs will provide a model for scaling across the Government.

Pilots supporting the implementation of a cloud-computing environment include:

— End-user communications and computing—secure provisioning, support (help desk), and operation of end-user applications across a spectrum of devices; addressing telework and a mobile workforce.

— Secure virtualized data centers, with Government-to-Government, Government-to-Contractor, and Contractor-to-Contractor modes of service delivery.

— Portals, collaboration and messaging —secure data dissemination, citizen and other stakeholder engagement, and workforce productivity.

— Content, information, and records management — delivery of services to citizens and workforce productivity.

— Workflow and case management—delivery of services to citizens and workforce productivity.

— Data analytics, visualization, and reporting— transparency and management.

— Enterprise Software-as-a-Service—for example, in financial management.

Cloud-computing will help to optimize the Federal data facility environment and create a platform to provide services to a broader audience of customers. Another new program, the “work-at-a-distance” initiative, will leverage modern technologies to allow Federal employees to work in real time from remote locations, reducing travel costs and energy consumption, and improving the Government’s emergency preparedness capabilities.

Cloud-computing and “work-at-a-distance” represent major new Government-wide initiatives, supported by the CIO Council under the auspices of the Federal CIO (OMB’s E-Government Administrator), and funded through the General Services Administration (GSA) as the service-provider.

Of the investments that will involve up-front costs to be recouped in outyear savings, cloud-computing is a prime case in point. The Federal Government will transform its Information Technology Infrastructure by virtualizing data centers, consolidating data centers and operations, and ultimately adopting a cloud-computing business model. Initial pilots conducted in collaboration with Federal agencies will serve as test beds to demonstrate capabilities, including appropriate security and privacy protection at or exceeding current best practices, developing standards, gathering data, and benchmarking costs and performance. The pilots will evolve into migrations of major agency capabilities from agency computing platforms to base agency IT processes and data in the cloud. Expected savings in the outyears, as more agencies reduce their costs of hosting systems in their own data centers, should be many times the original investment in this area.

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