ATARC looks to tackle persistent cloud problems

cloud business people 

Even though many federal agencies have moved some of their IT operations to the cloud, there are still some basic questions that need answered, according to federal IT officials.

Cost, billing and security are among of the top day-to-day considerations for agencies moving to the commercial cloud, according to Bobby Duffy, special IT advisor to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General.

"Billing is not real easy" with commercial cloud providers, Duffy said in remarks at the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center's (ATARC) kickoff meeting of its Federal Cloud and Infrastructure Working Group in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 4. "There are a lot of moving parts" including how much data the cloud provider gets, and how much an agency keeps on its servers, as well as how that data on commercial cloud is used, he said.

DHS OIG currently has about 10% of its operations on a commercial cloud, but it is moving more substantially onto that platform by the end of the fiscal year, said Duffy.

Intricate understanding an agency's operations is key to a cloud-smart move to commercial providers, as the Office of Management and Budget has mandated, said Gerald Caron, director of enterprise network management at the Department of State.

Caron said as his agency increases cloud operations, he is taking international operations data centers, Trusted Internet Connection rules and telecommunications backhaul requirements into consideration. The State Department is working through cloud issues with OMB's Cloud Smart guidance in mind, he said. Making data on total cost of ownership and return on investment digestible for non-IT leaders at the agency -- such as the chief financial officer, chief information security officer and even higher level officials is crucial -- he added.

Those nitty-gritty, everyday cloud implementation issues are what ATARC's cloud work group will address, according to Tom Suder, ATARC founder and president.

"We want to break down all the barriers to cloud and break them into individual chunks for government, academia and industry to resolve," Suder told FCW in an interview at the event.  "We want to help federal agencies learn from each other in their mistakes and success," he said.

The cloud and infrastructure work group has eight project teams and will focus on data center evolution, cloud migration, telecommunications infrastructure,  cost modeling, application rationalization, monitoring and other issues.

With the launch, Suder said, ATARC is "setting the table" for how agencies and industry will approach cloud issues. "We're then going to go into working groups which will work all year on coming up with some deliverables for each category."



About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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