With Kundra's departure, hope wanes for federal cloud adoption

Despite the departing federal CIO's efforts, the government has a very long way to go in moving to the cloud

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has been all about IT reform for the federal government, and he placed big bets that cloud computing is the way to go. He pushed for open government, cloud computing, data center consolidation, rigorous project management, and better customer service.

However, Kundra has announced that he will leave his position in August, after a two-and-a-half-year stint. This move has many people asking if the government's move to cloud computing will come to a halt. Living in Washington, D.C., I get a front-row view of the government's use of this technology, and it's a bit like watching five-year-olds play soccer: There is a lot of movement, but not much gets done.

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In many respects, the government first led us to cloud computing, such as through the National Institute of Standards and Technology's attempt to define this cloudy space and well-publicized movements by the government to adopt the cloud, including Fed Ramp. However, the government's cloud computing grade for the last few years has been a D+ at best.

Despite all their efforts and advocacy, Kundra, the General Services Administration (which sets the contracting standards for most agencies), and perhaps even President Barack Obama could not get government agency CIOs off the sidelines when it came to cloud computing. Clearly there were a few attempts to dip toes into the water, and a few internal infrastructure renewal contracts were quickly cloud-washed as "private clouds." However, I don't see any significant movement to the value of cloud computing by the government.

At the heart of the matter is that CIOs have operational responsibilities and only enough budget to get to the end of each year. Thus, playing around with new technologies -- even those that could significantly lower costs in the long run -- did not receive the funding levels required to even access the transformation processes.

In addition, the big government IT contractors that run so much of the federal IT systems continue to be clueless about the use of cloud computing. The sad fact is that any transformation process has to be driven by those big government IT service providers, and they have very little innovation or talent around the use of cloud computing. Worse, they have an inherent conflict of interest, as the use of cloud computing will ultimately reduce the need for the systems development and support they sell the government.

The best move for the feds is to listen to those who understand how to change existing government IT for the better and map out a path that drives long-term systemic change that, in turn, drives to better efficiency. I believe that Kundra did his best, but he was trying to bail a boat with coffee cup.

This article, "With Kundra's departure, hope wanes for federal cloud adoption," 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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