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A Smarter Government Through Cloud Computing

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A smarter government is more agile, more able to effectively respond to changing government needs and citizen dynamics. One of the best ways to improve the way our government works -- both its operational efficiency as well as the services it provides to citizens -- is through cloud computing.

Yesterday I participated in the Congressional High-Tech Caucus Cloud Task Force's "Cloud Computing: A Primer" in Washington, DC as part of an industry panel which tackled issues critical to cloud utilization. The event was designed to help our legislators understand how to optimize IT and lower costs, reducing government waste. I was excited to be able to take this message to Congress, and appreciated the opportunity to join Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), co-chairs of the High Tech Caucus.

As citizens, there is a lot of reason to be excited about the promise of cloud computing to help our government operate more efficiently. We like to feel that our tax dollars are hard at work, and that maximum value is being squeezed out of every penny. Rapidly evolving advancements in cloud technologies in such areas as resource pooling, virtualization and operational automation must be considered to help transform and consolidate government data centers to ensure more effective use of resources and lower operational costs.

In today's cloud-computing model, computing resources can be pooled together like a utility and, just like electricity, can be dialed up in real time, on demand. Cloud computing technologies provide a way for government to consume or deliver technology and government services, more efficiently and securely. Cloud computing, implemented properly, eliminates the risk of becoming locked into an IT system that is difficult and costly to reshape when technological change and new administrative requirements force systems to evolve in both design and implementation. A properly implemented cloud strategy embraces cloud technologies based on open standards and a flexible and extensible operational platform.

At the end of 2010, the Obama administration announced its "Cloud-First" policy, which required agencies to default to cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists. Even before this initiative, the federal government's exploitation of cloud computing was projected to grow by at least 40 percent over the next several years -- a trend that is happening at the local government level too.

Now, the government is making steady progress in executing the reforms outlined in its 25-Point Plan, delivering many ahead of schedule. As this has happened, there has been an expansion in the definition of cloud to include cloud-oriented shared services, which hold great promise for government. Avoiding the redundancy of having each department's IT shop develop its own software for managing personnel or dealing with public-information requests accounts for nearly half the $932 million in IT savings it has identified through its TechStat program for reviewing IT.

To be sure, cloud won't be a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to government implementation. In most cases, a combination of different approaches -- private clouds, hybrid clouds and public clouds -- should all be examined to determine which approach makes the most sense for the specific need that is being met.

Applications like e-mail, content management, and back-up have been relatively easy to move to the cloud. But using cloud architectures to improve core functions to accelerate development and delivery of business solutions, while reducing duplication of effort will require careful analysis of each application to determine the best migration path.

The coming year is an exciting time for technology leaders in the Federal government) , as new security standards and the move to shared services provide the structure that will help new projects for cost cutting take root, ultimately saving taxpayers money by helping to create a Smarter Government that is more nimble and efficient than ever before.

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