Update: What Do Government Officials Think Of Cloud Computing?

This is the latest in a series of articles that covers the Federal Government’s move towards increasing use of cloud computing. You may want to look at these earlier articles for an understanding of the official stance on this emerging technology and actions taken:

1. Governments and Cloud Computing – Where Do They Stand?

2. Cloud Computing in the US Government

3. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra Plans to Shut Down 100 Data Centers by 2012, 800 by 2015

4. The Architect of the Official Cloud Computing Revolution – CIO Vivek Kundra

5. Knowledge Sharing on Cloud Computing Between Government and Public Sectors

6. How Much Can The US Government Save By Going To The Cloud?

As for the latest news on the official stance on cloud computing, expectations seem to have been lowered somewhat, if Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s recent presentation before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is compared with the “Federal Cloud Weather Report” commissioned by cloud computing company VMware. While Kundra mentioned cost savings of $5 billion annually, VMware had the figure at $14 billion.

At the same time, there is a valid explanation for this discrepancy in numbers. For one, they came from different sources, and Kundra may very well adopt a more conservative stance. In fact, in an earlier interview with the Wall Street Journal, he did mention that $5 billion is the minimum in projected savings from the cloud move. Thus, he may have just being erring on the side of caution when speaking to the Senate Committee.

Secondly, the $5 billion figure does not include the $3 billion expected to be saved by shutting down 800 federal data centers by 2015. Although, the average per year savings comes to only around $750 million, it does add to the original figure of $5 billion.

However, two recent developments are causes for concern as far as the government’s migration to the cloud is concerned. The first one is the drastic cut in the e-government fund for Kundra’s office due to the wrangling surrounding a possible government shutdown in April; the budget has been slashed from $34 million to a mere $8 million, in a move one columnist has described as “punishing success”, considering that Kundra has already saved the government billions.

Kundra addressed those cuts at the Senate hearing, saying he is hopeful funding will be restored in the 2012 budget being debated now. “Whether it’s shining a light on $80 billion of IT investments or . . . making sure that we’re getting all the data in contracting or grants [on the procurement tracking website USAspending.gov], the reality is that transparency is not free. It costs money and it takes resources. So, we’re doing our best with the $8 million funding that we have” he said.

The second cause for concern is that, according to a survey conducted by research firm Ovum, about 46% of government officials believed that cloud computing will not save their agencies enough money to make using it worthwhile. In other words, the very people tasked with implementing the cloud strategy in government seem to doubt its efficacy. Since the success of the strategy depends considerably on the conviction of all stakeholders, this is something that Kundra and his team will have to actively address.

By Sourya Biswas

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