WASHINGTON-As the IT industry braces for the emerging cloud computing wave, no other sector is as well-suited to operating in the cloud as the federal government. So said a group of cloud computing experts, who extolled the benefits of cloud computing while inviting government IT managers to "jump in" and start piloting cloud computing projects.
At a FedScoop Cloud Computing Shoot Out held at the Newseum here, representatives from major computing companies shared their views on the cloud and its benefits for government users. The group included Mike Donovan, chief technologist at HP enterprise services; Yousef Khalidi, a distinguished engineer working on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud platform; Werner Vogels, chief technology officer at Amazon.com; Prasad Rampalli, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group and director of end-user platform integration at Intel; Mike Hill, vice president of enterprise initiatives at IBM; Eran Feigenbaum, director of security for Google Enterprise; and Daniel Burton, senior vice president of global public policy at Salesforce.com. Dave McClure, the associate administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Communications in the U.S. General Services Administration, moderated the panel. McClure stood in as a replacement for Vivek Kundra, who was slated to appear, but who was pulled away to launch the Open Government Initiative, announced at the same time.
Said McClure of the panelists: "These are not just giants; these are the redwood trees of the cloud computing industry."
And, given the early attention that the federal government has placed on the cloud, the FedScoop Cloud Shoot Out could not have come at a better time for many in the audience representing the government.
"The Obama administration is serious about the availability of the cloud to the federal government," McClure said. "It is a definite direction we are going. Cloud computing provides us with the ability to lower capital expenses. It's scalable; it's a high-performance option for most agencies. And it's real. We've got several examples of it at many levels in government."
For his part, Amazon's Vogels said that, in his experience, "the critical consideration for cloud is not cost, it's flexibility." With cloud computing, "IT can become an enabler of innovation," he added.
Khalidi chimed in that he agreed with Vogels, noting that Microsoft refers to that flexibility as "agility" and that this issue comes up frequently in Microsoft discussions with enterprises.
Meanwhile, Burton of Salesforce.com cut to the chase. "The most important thing government can do is to jump in," he said. "I think it would be best to pick a few apps and jump in and try it."
Indeed, Google's Feigenbaum added: "It's not all or nothing. You don't need to have a complete cloud strategy. You can have things like your messaging and collaboration suite in the cloud." Moreover, addressing security concerns that crop up around cloud computing, he said, "I think cloud computing can be as secure if not more secure than what agencies are running today."