The feds' cloud migration strategy may not be enough

The U.S. CIO outlines how the federal government can accelerate the adoption of cloud computing -- but will this help?

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It was encouraging to see that the United States, under the direction of Vivek Kundra, the country's first CIO, just posted on the CIO.gov website "A Strategy for Cloud Migration" (PDF) for government agencies. This document includes a decision framework for cloud computing adoption by the government, case-study examples of success in the cloud, and old but mostly accepted definitions of cloud computing and its benefits. 

My favorite part is the first paragraph: "The federal government's current information technology environment is characterized by low asset utilization, a fragmented demand for resources, duplicative systems, environments that are difficult to manage, and long procurement lead times. These inefficiencies negatively impact the federal government's ability to serve the American public." Hear, hear, brother!

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As taxpayers, we should all be behind the feds' use of cloud computing to get to a more cost-effective and efficient state. However, the U.S. government's move toward cloud computing has been slow to appear as CIOs at all agencies struggle with inter- and intra-agency politics and with budgets that do not yet support cloud computing.

In this document, the CIO's office lays out the "potential spending on cloud computing by agency" in Appendix 1. I guess the key word is "potential" and not "budgeted." However, the top three departments are Homeland Security, Treasury, and Defense, with a total potential expenditure of $20 billion for all agencies combined from a total IT budget of $80 billion. I'm assuming that's yearly.

The trouble with these kinds of documents is that there isn't enough detailed information to be useful. Migration to cloud computing is complex and far-reaching, and it takes a lot of thoughtful planning that can't be explained in a 40 pages. Moreover, without control of agency budgets, it's going to be difficult for the U.S. CIO to move quickly, if at all, before the current administration goes into re-election mode. I suspect the path to the cloud for the government will continue to be frustratingly slow. I applaud the CIO's work in this area, though. I think he's pushing all of the buttons he can push right now.

Last year at this time, I pointed out that the U.S. government was mandating the use of cloud computing, or at least that agencies have a plan or a cloud in place by 2012. It will be interesting to see if that happens -- I predict everyone will ask for exemptions and extensions.

What's needed is a funded group of cloud computing ninjas in Washington who understand how to do cloud computing and are available to any agency that needs them to assist in planning, budgets, architecture, development, and deployment. Also, money needs to go to agencies that can't yet fit cloud computing into their budget until their stream of funding is more operationally focused.

This is a very solvable problem, but it's one that requires resources and commitment.

This article, "The feds' cloud migration strategy may not be enough," 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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