Cloud-computing success depends on knowing what to ask

Government certification and compliance requirements don't mesh well with cloud computing

Prior to adopting cloud-computing technology, federal agencies should perform risk assessments that look at which services, applications and data can be hosted on a cloud infrastructure, according to an expert who spoke at a Digital Government Institute cloud-computing conference.

Agencies should first examine which services delivered internally and to the public can be hosted by a cloud-computing system, said Gregory Garcia, president of Garcia Strategies and the former assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications at the Homeland Security Department.

Agencies need to answer a series of questions that include: What do we put in the cloud? Which services, applications and data do we keep in our control? And, what are the rules and policies by which those applications, services and data will be implemented?

"Once we have those definitions, then I think we can develop a risk approach to determining what the security architecture ought to be for those mission-critical systems," Garcia said on Feb 2.

"Then we can apply the right technologies, procedures and training for cloud computing," he said. "That ensures that those who are in the business of government are going to meet their mission-critical needs and the public is going to be best served."

However, one of cloud computing's most attractive features—the ability to pool resources—could be the biggest impediment to implementing the technology for the federal government, according to Peter Mell, the senior computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Computer Security Division.

Marrying a cloud infrastructure with traditional certification, accreditation and compliance requirements federal agencies must follow is difficult, Mell said.

"If you take 40 agencies and put them on the same system, do you think that they are going to intersect perfectly?" Mell said. "No, the registry settings among many agencies will not be compatible."

That creates the potential for enormous duplication of work and wasted money if each agency has to go it alone, he said.

To remedy the situation, agencies should work together to agree which security controls should exist for cloud-computing systems and what variables there should be for the security controls, Mell said.

"That will let us create a program by which cloud systems can then be authorized for the entire government to use," he said.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group