Congress gets its head into the cloud

It’s been almost a year since the Obama administration launched the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative. Guess who’s just now starting to pay attention?

“I’m a big fan of cloud computing,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which held its first hearing on cloud technologies July 1. Issa then proceeded to throw cold water on the initiative with his Tea Party skepticism. Don’t think it's anything other than “my fear of bureaucracy that causes me to sound like we’re not going to get there as quick as we would like to,” he said.

Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) had little more encouragement to offer, reported Max Cacas of Federal News Radio. Moving the federal government to cloud computing might take as long as a decade, Towns said, before announcing that it will be his job to see to it that risks and benefits are thoroughly weighed and balanced. “Our natural impulse is to hold the things we value close to us, but cloud computing requires entrusting data to others,” he said.

As GCN's Rutrell Yasin reported, the committee’s interest in cloud computing reflects a new awareness in Congress of the cloud’s potential benefits, including the savings associated with consolidating federal data centers and not the least of which is the prospect of bigger data centers in certain House members' districts.

“We get re-elected based on whether or not people believe we care about them," Issa said. "So it is not uncommon we would want a data center in our district, particularly if it created good-paying jobs.”

“I want two,” Towns said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, said he believes cloud computing also could be the key to closing the technology gap between the private and public sectors, writes Gautham Nagesh in the "Hillicon Valley" blog. But having to depend on private companies to store federal data and applications has its risks. “We don’t want to consolidate to one place so people can bring down all of federal IT," Kundra told the committee members.

Even so, Kundra “faces his first real political test,” wrote David Linthicum in Infoworld’s "Cloud Computing" blog. This is really about the fact that Congress was not given a chance to make political hay out of cloud computing, Linthicum wrote. “Maybe a new federal cloud computing center in somebody’s district awaits.”

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