MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. Government agencies at the federal and state levels talk a good game about wanting to refresh legacy data center systems by moving as many of them to cloud services as possible. Instantly realized cost-savings, ease of use and increased data safety and workload effectiveness are all factors that can't be denied anymore.
But the reality all around the country is that due to budget restraints, personnel cutbacks and an inherent culture of cautiousness, this process for governments is slower than a child dawdling home from school with a bad report card.
Acknowledging that cloud computing is the way of the future, the TechAmerica Foundation on Feb. 16 released a 44-page report from its State and Local Government Cloud Commission that identifies and explains best practices and policies in cloud computing for state and local government.
TechAmerica, a partnership of federal and state government representatives and 38 IT companies, also launched an interactive Web portal to go with the report.
"I don't want to overstate how far behind we are in government," California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (pictured) told a group of about 100 industry people, journalists and government officials from around the U.S. at a conference on Microsoft's Mountain View, Calif. campus. (Here's a video of the proceedings.)
Legacy Systems Tough to Change
"We've got to wake up. The problem is all these legacy systems. If we could start over, we'd be fine. But we're stuck with all these old contractsand how many articles have you [journalists] written about procurement disasters?" Newsom said.
"Think of the new procurement disaster that exists with our court system. Billions of dollars of cost overruns. We can't make this stuff up. And we never learn from our mistakes. How can you [the IT industry] help us to help ourselves? We've got some outstanding people in government that stick around in the technology space, but they've got all kinds of options of going to the private sector. It's extraordinary that the good ones stick around, but we frankly don't have enough of them," Newsom said.
"Due to budget constraints, we often realize that we just bought yesterday's technology for the next 20 years. But the cloud seems to offer escape valves that we've never had in the past."
Cloud computing is a win-win for governments, for citizens, and for the economy as a whole, Newsom said. It takes the technical complexity out of the hands of an already overworked government IT department while at the same time improving services for citizens, he added.
"My friend, Tim O'Reilly (founder of O'Reilly Media) once said that the government is like a vending machine. You put your money in to get something -- like police, fire, education services -- and if it doesn't work, you shake the machine until something happens," Newsom said.
Some of the highlights of the report, a download of which can be obtained from the TechAmerica Website, are:
- complete descriptions and definitions of cloud services and infrastructures;
- identification of key services models, such as software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS);
- an assessment of vulnerability risk management; and
- a list of operations best practices, including standardized services and process; adoption of new application architectures; capacity monitoring and planning/budgeting; process automation; and people skills and managed services integration.
The report also includes some government-related cloud adoption use cases, such as from the Commonwealth of Virginia (which is now saving more than $30 million per year on IT), and the state of Illionois, which is delivering state-of-the-art educational services for K-12 education and saves more than 25 percent of its budget in the process.
Some Key Takeaways
As for acquiring cloud-based IT, the report cites as the following key takeaways:
- Successful procurement entails three key issues: procurement vehicles, contractual terms and funding streams.
- Procurement vehicles in use today may not be optimal for acquiring cloud services and may be offered by government consortia or by the federal government.
- Contract vehicles for cloud services are also offered by multi-government consortia and the federal government.
- Because the private cloud has dominated state CIO discussions, needs such as varying application requirements for test and development environments, prototyping and collaboration/email are gaining ground.
TechAmerica Foundation's mission is to educate executives, policymakers, press, opinion leaders and the public on the size, scope, outlook, and impact of technology and to promote technology-led ideas that advance economic growth and U.S. competitiveness.
Launched in 1981, TechAmerica Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan affiliate of TechAmerica, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for the U.S. technology industry. The foundation disseminates industry, policy and market research covering topics such as U.S. competitiveness in a global economy, innovation in government, defense and federal IT forecasts, technology employment and international trade indicators, and other areas of national interest.
It also organizes conferences and seminars to explore pertinent issues with government and industry representatives and to share the foundation's findings with the public.