Luring Government IT to the Cloud

Selling software as a service to skeptical federal IT managers is proving easier these days as state and local governments prove turning to SAAS and the cloud can save taxpayer dollars while improving service to constituents. Using hosted applications and services from, Google Apps,'s Amazon EC2 and other cloud computing vendors, U.S. local governments from coast to coast are turning to the Internet to build cost-effective, scalable and reliable solutions.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's IT department had a problem after creating a 4,500-page Web site that was less than the sum of its parts. The City of Seattle's network was unable to successfully screen out spam. The District of Columbia's network was, well, simply dysfunctional.
All three government agencies ultimately turned to the cloud for solutions, joining dozens of other state and local agencies embracing SAAS (software as a service) to reduce costs and improve citizen service. While the federal government has been reluctant to join the cloud, local governments are rushing there, proving there are options for cash-strapped agencies saddled with legacy software and hardware.
Federal agencies are "wary of putting data on the Internet," Dan Burton,'s senior vice president of global public policy, told eWEEK. "They're just now awakening up to this potential."
Here's a look at some of the nation's successful cloud deployments by state and local governments and, yes, even some federal agencies.
U.S. Census Bureau
The U.S. Census Bureau needed to coordinate and track partnership activities between the Census Bureau and outside organizations including state and local governments, community-based organizations, businesses, and nonprofits in the two-year run-up to the 2010 decennial census. In addition, the Census Bureau planned to assemble a geographically dispersed temporary work force in the thousands to enter and manage contacts.
Adding to the challenge, the Census Bureau had a hard go-live date that required a 12-week implementation for the first phase of users.
The bureau turned to and Acumen Solutions, which implemented the Integrated Partner Contact Database project requiring no installations or plug-ins be downloaded to staff PCs. The solution allowed the Census Bureau to avoid coordination of a complex and costly software rollout to remote staff.
By using a SAAS application, the Census Bureau was able to purchase and deploy a solution for a limited period of time without having to invest a far greater amount of funding in a client-server based solution that it would only be using in mass quantities for 24 to 48 months.
Other federal clients include NASA, the Department of State, the U.S. Army and the Treasury Department.
Defense Information Systems Agency
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. DISA 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 Hewlett-Packard, Apptis, Sun Microsystems and Vion.