The U.S. government's cloud mandate loses steam

Once a leader in cloud computing, the government has fallen behind much of the tech world in cloud adoption

Government and IT may not sound like a natural pairing, but here in Washington, D.C., they're more closely related than many suspect. In fact, the government's move to cloud computing can have far-reaching implications for the tech industry as a whole.

Not so long ago -- 2008, to be exact -- you would've thought the government was the undisputed leader of the shift to cloud computing. Remember the NIST definition of cloud computing and the pro-cloud U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra (now an EVP at Salesforce.com)? Those days appear to be long gone; lately, the government is acting more like the larger commercial enterprises as they take baby steps to the cloud. It's time to pick up the pace.

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For government IT, the migration to cloud computing is complicated by the sheer complexity of supported environments and the unique nature of many federal business processes. However, people, processes, and yes, politics get in the way of the government cloud too.

To succeed, cloud computing requires a change in thinking, including a willingness to give up some control in exchange for efficiency. That's a huge leap for IT teams in government. Federal IT workers may talk up cloud computing at conferences and respond to mandates (such as cloud first), but their actions -- or lack thereof -- indicate they see the cloud as unreachable, scary, and confusing.

The fact is the government will move to cloud computing at its own pace. Some agencies will migrate more slowly than equivalent commercial enterprises, other agencies will jump to the cloud, and yet more will budge very little, if at all. Most will move backward, building more internal systems, more silos, less effective IT -- and deeper holes.

I'm disappointed as both a cloud guy and a taxpayer. However, I'm also a realist. I've worked within and around the government long enough to understand the realities. Still, it's a shame that the government has moved from a leader in the cloud computing movement to a reluctant follower.

This article, "The U.S. government's cloud mandate loses steam," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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