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The federal government spends more than $75 billion annually on information technology. Due to its size and critical mission requirements, feds have often lagged behind the commercial sector in embracing new technologies. With cloud computing, however, the federal government is leading the way.

From the earliest days of his Administration, President Obama along with his technology team focused on the importance of cloud computing as a key innovation that could reduce energy consumption and enhance agility within U.S. federal agencies. Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra laid out a vision for cloud computing that addresses the “Five Pillars” of the government’s IT agenda: citizen engagement, reducing the cost of government operations, driving innovation, transparency, and cybersecurity.

Many other governments around the world are getting on the cloud now. They are interested in the United States’ lessons learned and future vision. In a short time, federal agencies collaboratively created a formal definition for cloud computing; launched the first government cloud storefront, Apps.gov; created a federal cloud computing program and governance structure; and began addressing critical success factors such as security, portability and interoperability, and education and awareness.

Cloud computing is truly a game-changing development. A few examples:

  • The cloud’s scalability implies that government agencies no longer need worry about reaching the limits of their digital capacity. By transitioning to the cloud, agencies tap into an infrastructure that is as flexible as their needs are varied.
  • Cloud solutions encourage cross-agency collaboration and help government perform better for the American people.
  • The federal government’s commitment to cloud computing signals to private industry that smart technology solutions are the future of government.

The General Services Administration experienced many of these benefits by moving the federal portal, USA.gov, to the cloud. GSA wanted to reduce costs and add scalability and flexibility to USA.gov in order to meet emerging citizen needs. Using a traditional IT procurement, it would likely have required six months to upgrade USA.gov to keep up with growing traffic, at a cost of approximately $2.47 million per year. In a cloud environment, GSA is able to perform upgrades in one day at an annual cost of $806,000. The transition significantly lowers GSA’s costs and improves the scalability of USA.gov, saving taxpayers $1.7 million annually.

Of course, the private sector is a vital partner helping the federal government realize the benefits of cloud computing. Companies such as those participating in the FedScoop Cloud Computing Shoot Out will play a critical role in advancing innovation and overcoming challenges. Cloud computing has a bright future, and today’s event is one more step in that direction.

  • DC

    Bull, the Fed cloud experiment is just a distraction that loosens up a few back office Sharepoint systems in most agencies, not attracting the behemoth mission critical payroll systems. Cross-agency business intelligence will be a donation of information

    Scalability means waste. It becomes a redundant expense for agencies and encourages tremendous resource growth and waste, just like virtualization did to grid computing. By reducing hardware and making environments cheaper and easier to spin up, the number of environments exploded in growth, which was disastrous to the overhead to track, administer, and maintain those environments.

    Cross-agency collaboration means redundancy of outdated information. Each agency will have their own “truth” data and merely share less sensitive data to this cloud repository for mining from other research initiatives. Owning your own IT and data is the backbone of an agencies power and will not be compromised.

    The app store will be great, but now 2 million feds expect iPads.

    The problem: there is no incentive for agencies to collaborate and use GSA’s expensive services, unless you remove their IT funding and shared service applications that each agency has build a bureaucracy around.