Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Agencies deepen investments in cloud solutions

The federal government is moving to the cloud. It is not a simple process —that much is clear four years after the Obama administration issued its “Cloud First” strategy —but it is happening all the same because agency IT managers see cloud as an essential tool for transforming their IT infrastructures.

Deltek, a market research and consulting firm, is bullish on the cloud, even though agencies are still working through their concerns about security and other policies. In the Federal Cloud Computing Market Outlook, Deltek analysts identified four ways in which cloud aligns with agency IT transformation strategies. Cloud…:

  • …emphasizes managing data not infrastructure.
  • …increases efficiency, when combined with infrastructure consolidation.
  • …provides a path to enterprise services.
  • …accelerates innovation.
  • Defense agencies continue to rank among the leaders in cloud deployment. For example, the Defense Information Systems Agency has launched a project known as milCloud, which is designed to provide a portfolio of services that defense agencies can use when developing cloud-based applications.

    According to FCW, milCloud currently is available on DOD’s unclassified network, NIPRnet, but will soon be available on the SIPRnet classified network.

    Cloud also is expected to play a major role in DOD’s Joint Information Environment, which is designed to provide for secure information sharing across the department. At the end of March, DISA, which will provide many of the systems that will run across the JIE, provisionally authorized four cloud solutions to handle unclassified public and private information. The department will achieve even more savings once DISA has cleared cloud providers to work at higher classifications.

    Many civilian agencies also are deepening their investments in cloud solutions. For example, the Department of Homeland Security is looking to the cloud to help with integrating all of the various organizations it inherited when it was formed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It has outlined a “two cloud” strategy: Applications and data with security concerns will go to a private cloud, while others, such as public-facing web sites, will go to public clouds.

    The Social Security Administration also plans to make greater use of the private cloud. In a request for information released in January, the agency identified a long list of desired features and functionality that it would like to integrate into its existing VMware server virtualization infrastructure. The list includes a Web-based self-service portal, a unified service catalog, performance-monitoring, virtual machine life-cycle management, multi-tenancy, capacity planning and asset management.

    Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute recently sought input on its plans to use the cloud to make data more accessible to researchers. NCI envisions allowing researchers to access and analyze data via a Web browser, rather than downloading the data to their own systems, which is not always practical.

    “Such a ‘Cancer Genomics Cloud’ has the potential to democratize access to NCI-generated genomic data and provide a more cost-effective way to provide computational support to the cancer research community,” the RFI states.

    As it turns out, even congressional lawmakers are getting in on the act. In January, Representatives Darrell Issa (R.-Ca.) and Gerry Connolly (D.-Va.) announced the formation of a bipartisan Congressional Cloud computing Caucus, which will be focused on fostering awareness and understanding of the technology.

    In a letter to their fellow lawmakers, Issa and Connolly said “the versatility and scalability of cloud computing will save taxpayer money and offer policymakers a chance to address the federal government’s dismal record of procuring and using information technology.”