Given the current state of the economy and the yawning federal deficit, the efficiency and cost-savings associated with cloud computing are prompting U.S. federal IT agencies to flirt with the cloud platform. Slowly, of course, since it is the government, after all.
Cloud computing has become so pervasive in the enterprise that even federal
agencies are moving-slowly, of course-in the direction of on-demand computing.
Given the current state of the economy and the yawning federal deficit, the
efficiency and cost-savings associated with cloud computing may prompt an even
quicker shift to the cloud.
"In many cases, agencies are already using the Internet," said
Drew Cohen, a vice president in Booz Allen Hamilton's Defense IT practice who is working closely with
federal agencies. "The words and terms are new, but the core tools have
been evolving for some time. It's really just a maturing of things that are
already going on."
DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency), for instance, awarded contracts in
2006 for on-demand computing services. The idea was for government customers to
pay for computing and storage capacity on an as-needed basis instead of having
to invest in new hardware and software. Interested customers had to work
through the Defense Enterprise
to develop solutions.
here to read about the trend toward private cloud computing.
Taking another step toward the cloud, DISA recently introduced RACE (Rapid
Access Computing Environment), in which Department of Defense users go to a
Web-based portal and provision their own operating environments based on
standard Department of Defense architecture. RACE contractors include
Apptis, Sun Microsystems
"DISA likes that model in terms of supporting their customers," Cohen
said, though noting that DISA is developing its own cloud for a number of
security and privacy reasons. "Building your own cloud is whole different
thing. When you build your own cloud, when does it become a cloud?"
Research in the cloud
Other, more public-facing agencies are embracing the now traditional cloud
platforms offered by Amazon.com, Google and Microsoft. In February, Google
announced it was working with NSF (National Science Foundation) and IBM
to allow the academic research community to conduct experiments and test new
theories and ideas using a large-scale, massively distributed computing
Jeannette Wing, the NSF assistant director for the Computer and Information
Science and Engineering Directorate, said in an open letter to the academic
computing research community that the relationship would give government-funded
researchers access to resources that would be unavailable to them otherwise.
According to Wing, NSF hopes the relationship will provide a blueprint for
future collaborations between the academic community and private enterprise.
"We welcome any comparable offers from industry that offer the same
potential for transformative research outcomes," she said.