The IT Road Less Traveled

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The IT Road Less Traveled

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Cloud mandate in hindsight: Sound policy or politics as usual?

By Jean-Paul Bergeaux
Chief Technology Officer, SwishData

To summarize my last blog post, it’s clear public cloud computing is going to be absolutely revolutionary for small businesses and individuals, cutting costs and adding functionality for them rivaling the most developed and mature IT departments. That market segment is huge and will be profitable for cloud computing providers when you consider that some 95 to 97 percent of companies fall in this category. However, the allure of savings for large organizations that can already use economies of scale to deploy modern virtualized data centers (e.g., private clouds) is questionable at best.

With that said, we’re now a couple of years into the cloud-first mandate that pushed agencies to look at cloud solutions. The assumption was that this mandate was pushing agencies toward public clouds or software as a service (SaaS) so the government could grab part of the golden pot of promised savings. However, most agencies are not serving users in the hundreds, but thousands or tens of thousands, sometimes even many more. They fit into the group that is going to have a tough time finding savings in SaaS offerings.

In addition to not offering the promised savings, most SaaS services are still immature and introduce several problems, two of which are also mandates that put agencies in a bind if they try to follow the assumed “public” in the cloud mandate. The most notorious problem cloud services have is a lack of security compliance. Google is the main offender of this one with GSA, NOAA and now the Department of Interior unable to comply with security mandates without pulling out of expensive service contracts.

Another looming problem is information assurance. Google is an offender here too, but nearly all SaaS solutions currently have this issue in some form or fashion. This will be most telling when a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request ends up in court because some agencies either can’t comply at all, or can’t confirm that they have fully provided all information pertaining to the request. Most (including Google) cannot provide logs and tracking information, therefore opening these agencies up to accusations of hiding information and deleting records. Again, the only solution is to pull out of the expensive contracts some agencies have signed.

So why was the cloud push initiated? Who knows for sure. It wouldn’t be the first time that government officials didn’t do their homework before making a sweeping decision. It also wouldn’t be the first time that a government official pushed a mandate, law or project for some unknown reason.

Either way, a public cloud push is bad policy. The answer for agencies seems to be private clouds that can provide compliance to the cloud mandate, grabbing the modernization and virtualization savings, while still offering compliance with other government mandates.So how do agencies begin that private cloud process and show leadership the light? In two weeks we'll come back to the cloud topic. Next week, we'll talk about Hadoop. See you then!

While you wait, check out these cloud-focused blog posts at the Data Performance Blog.

Posted by Jean-Paul Bergeaux on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Reader comments

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Jean-Paul Bergeaux

Greg, I completely agree. There needs to be upgrades to particular systems and software and that there is a stovepipe problem in government. However, that is a separate issue from private cloud vs. public cloud. Those two are delivery systems for the same technologies: data center consolidation and modernization. The upgrades and consolidation can be done in house. An analogy would be if you wanted to stop eating junk food because it was bad for you, so you said you had to order healthier food from a restaurant. You could also go to the grocery store and make some healthy food yourself. Both provide you with a better diet. Just different delivery systems, one someone else cooks it for you, one you cook for yourself.

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 Greg

At least part of the problem is the desperate need to move beyond the obsolete, isolated, unfriendly software so prevalent in government. The SaaS option in public cloud computing offers a way out of the deadend so many government entities find themselves in. Oh, all the information is there, somewhere! Real problem is it is in stovepiped systems that don't encourage use. The critical analysis and decision support stuff is just too time-consuming or difficult, as you often need to go to several systems to begin forming a complete picture.
Yes IT security is a challenge, but business and healthcare also deal in very sensitive areas. They seem to be meet the challenges fairly well.
Greater success in cloud use lies in contracts that ensure performance, realibility and security. That hasn't always been the case up to now.

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