Not All Clouds Will Be Equal

February 29, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor
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While the general perception is that a cloud is a cloud, that won't be the case for government agencies. Experts revealed more specifics about federal, state and local migration to cloud computing during the first panel at AFCEA International's Homeland Security Conference. Eventually a governmentwide cloud for all services and data may be created, but today, while some services can move to the cloud environment, others will require customized clouds. For example, email services are a good candidate for the cloud, but those agencies that require extra security are likely to create private clouds for data storage and exchange. The latter not only applies to the usual suspects of national security agencies but also to local and regional law enforcement agencies that need to restrict access and protect information during ongoing investigations . Clouds-whether large or small-almost certainly will save agencies money, panelists agreed. Savings will be realized because the majority of the $80 billion the federal government spends on IT today is spent on infrastructure management. Bajinder N. Paul, deputy associate administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, GSA, predicted that agencies may save up to 50 percent on costs--freeing up money that could be spent on modernization efforts or retraining personnel for new positions. CIOs need to develop strategies to move to the cloud, Paul added, an opinion that Keith Tripple, executive director of enterprise system development, DHS, shared. Cloud computing offers supply chain opportunities, so agencies and companies will need to develop new relationships to take advantage of them. For example, DHS currently is piloting "workplace as a service" and "testing as a service" to determine if these approaches would improve work-force productivity and speed the time to market of many products.

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