Feds appear committed to cloud computing; potential cost savings outweight security concerns

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra stressed his belief that the federal government needs to get out of the business of building data centers and managing IT infrastructure, hardware, servers, and application software, and instead should embrace cloud computing and store agency data on servers hosted by companies that specialize in managing IT and securing hosted information. Kundra’s remarks came at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, held in part to highlight the release of Brookings’ recently completed report, “Saving Money Through Cloud Computing,” which suggests that agencies that have moved to adopt the cloud model have realized savings of 25 to 50 percent in IT operations costs. With overall federal IT spending in excess of $76 billion, and a quarter or more of that spent on hardware, software, and file servers, the potential savings across the government certainly seem significant. Another theme expressed at the Brookings event was the suggestion that fears about physical, network, and data security for cloud computing may be misplaced, given that not all federal agencies have stellar track records in protecting the systems and data they manage themselves, and that major cloud service providers have huge incentives to keep their government customers’ data protected.

The cloud computing discussion seems to be ratcheting up a few notches this spring, as evidenced by the large crop of government and industry events focused on the topic. Later this month SYS-CON media will host a Cloud Computing Expo in New York City April 19-21, and the Interop show in Las Vegas at the end of the month will feature an Enterprise Cloud Summit on April 26. On the government-focused side, 1105 Government Information Group is hosting its 2010 Cloud Computing Conference and Exposition in Washington, DC May 3-4, and NIST will host a Cloud Summit on May 20 intended to accelerate the development of standards that will lead to initial specifications for federal cloud computing later in the summer.