Cloud Computing on Capitol Hill

Cloud Computing on Capitol Hill

Wars. Feuds between world leaders. The frozen-in-motion bull of Wall Street, and the solemn Washington Mall on Capitol Hill. Clouds from nature elegantly rise above it all. They’re too occupied with floating to tend to the political dramas taking place beneath them.

For better or worse, the cloud formed by gifted human ingenuity might be lassoed down to Earth’s governmental concerns sooner than we think.

The White House’s current Chief Information Officer, Steven VanRoekel, has spearheaded Washington’s move into the assets of cloud computing. On December 8, VanRoekel announced the Obama Administration’s plans to integrate substantially more cloud-computing services into standard governmental operations.

This move to the cloud is happening via FedRAMP, or the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, described as a “government-wide program” whose aim is the constant “monitoring of cloud products and services.”

It looks as if Congress is also on board with VanRoekel’s dreams to enter the cloud. It passed a 2012 defense bill this past week, which will require the Pentagon to form a plan of action to shift the majority of its data to cloud-computing resources, in the spirit of condensing and fortifying its information. Such consolidation will need to happen by the 1st of April.

The controversy of involving the government in the cloud begins with issues of security. As professionals well versed in the cloud community deeply understand, cloud computing has yet to completely evade any and all threats of security breaches. That holds true for those of us whose data is not even nearly as sensitive or impactful as, say, the storied files of the Pentagon.

Yet this unprecedented gesture of welcome to cloud computing, on behalf of the government, could also reverberate into the goings-on of several of the cloud’s most elite juggernaut organizations. The Big Three — Microsoft, Amazon, and Google — may eventually be approached by Uncle Sam with a cloud supply contract that Capitol Hill initiates.

Such a move could be interpreted as a formal shaking of the hands from one powerful entity in the world, Washington and its representatives of the American public, to another, cloud computing and its equally sizable reach to the people in this country.

Yet the government’s increasing surveillance and interaction with cloud computing could also spell trouble for the freedom inherent to the technology. Political maneuverings are the bread and butter of Capitol Hill. It’s likely that Amazon and the like have already been approached by zealous lobbyists to forge some pork-lined alliance. If the government started to regulate the cloud to ward off such interactions, could cloud computing withstand the blow?

I’m getting ahead of myself, however. For now, the cloud is only serving as a polite, expansive gatekeeper for governmental data. We’ll keep you readers updated on how this development progresses, with fingers crossed for the cloud’s best interest.

By Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman is a freelance writer currently based in New York City. He's moved into writing about cloud computing from substantial work in culture and the arts. He earned his undergraduate degree in English at Stanford and has studied at Oxford and Cambridge.

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