Congress to probe the feds' cloud computing strategy

Even with the usual political hay-making, the House Oversight Committee's hearings could be a good thing

Vivek Kundra faces his first real political test after his push for cloud computing within the federal government: The House Oversight Committee will be holding hearings to discuss his IT reform efforts, including the use of cloud computing. Oversight Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Government Management, Organization, and Procurement Subcommittee Chairwoman Diane Watson (D-Calif.) don't seem to be as pumped about cloud computing as Vivek is, simply put. But perhaps it's just a bit of political gaming.

The committee is taking a run at Kundra's cloud strategy, citing the fact that there are no clear published policies and procedures in place for the federal govenment to follow when using cloud computing. Thus, the committee fears, there are risks with security, interoperability, and data integration, but no solid plans in place to move this effort forward.

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As the committee hearing notice stated: "There are a number of questions and concerns about the federal government's use of cloud computing. The committee is examining these issues and intends to hold a hearing on the potential benefits and risks of moving federal IT into the cloud."

To defend Kundra, there are indeed strategy development efforts taking place, led by agencies such as the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. NIST, as you may recall, created the definition of cloud computing that most of the industry is using right now. Also, there are procurements hitting the street that include cloud computing provisions.

However, it would not be accurate to say that the federal government has a common approach to cloud computing just yet. The feds need to fill in some of the missing pieces, such as approaches to architecture, economic models, security, and governance. That's why -- although I'm clearly in the camp that technology and politics don't mix -- this committee hearing actually could be a good thing.

Living in Washington, D.C., I believe this is really about the fact that Congress was not really giving a chance to make political hay out of cloud computing. Maybe a new federal cloud computing center in somebody's district awaits. Still, it's a Democrat-controlled Congress and administration, so I figure there won't be too much harsh treatment of Kundra's effort.

Moreover, the focus on the cloud could drive additional funding to finally complete the strategies and begin to make real progress. As taxpayers, we should keep an eye on this. It's all for the good, trust me.

This article, "Congress to probe the feds' cloud computing strategy," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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