Debunking the Myths of Slowing Federal Cloud Adoption
by Kevin W. Irland
There's no question that the U.S. federal government is serious about cloud computing.
From its "Cloud First" strategy and 25 Point Federal IT Reform Implementation Plan to the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, it's clear there is a strong federal commitment to cloud computing and an equally strong understanding of its benefits.
That's why it's always interesting to see stories appear that call into question both the pace of cloud adoption by the federal government and its commitment to move forward.
When one takes a step back and considers the business of government, its decision-making processes, and the guidelines and regulations it must follow, one can see why the slow pace and lack of commitment conclusions are made.
However, considering that cloud computing adoption among all industries is barely in the broad adoption phase and government has particular (and unique) concerns related to procurement and security, one can argue that the government's adoption of cloud is actually beginning to accelerate.
Take for example several recent federal cloud wins and one can see that the scope and scale of federal cloud procurements is actually growing.
- U.S. Department of the Interior-Foundation Cloud Hosting Services Contract: A $10 billion, 10-year contract to provide cloud and hosting services, potentially one of the s largest federal cloud contracts to date. The services will be available to all nine of the department's technical bureaus and seven administrative offices, as well as all other federal departments and agencies.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture-Enterprise Data Center BPA: This blanket purchase agreement by USDA will accelerate cloud-computing initiatives and boost efforts to broadly adopt cloud services across 34 agencies and offices.
- U.S. General Services Administration-Infrastructure as a Service BPA: Awardees will negotiate with federal agencies to provide cloud services under the GSA's IaaS blanket purchase agreement valued up to $76.5 million over five years.
It has taken time for the federal government to lay the building blocks essential to enabling broad cloud adoption. On the procurement front, the government is making the shift from purchasing items to buying end-to-end, on-demand solutions. On the security front, regulations and guidelines, including NIST 800-53, FISMA and FedRAMP are now in place and guiding decisions related to the physical and virtual security of facilities, systems and data.
"There are many compelling reasons to believe that cloud computing will see deepening adoption by the U.S. federal government," said Susan Zeleniak, senior vice president of public sector markets, Verizon Enterprise Solutions. "Tight budgets, limited resources and even the impact of sequestration are driving federal IT decision makers to think of new ways to accomplish their goals. Our cloud platform is designed to meet federal requirements and offers the ability to purchase a ready-built service based on the usage requirements. All of these factors point to a bright outlook for cloud adoption."
Based on cloud awards, such as the Department of the Interior and others in the procurement pipeline, it seems the federal government is on the cusp of widespread adoption of cloud services for the remainder of 2013 and beyond.
The soon-to-be-released Verizon 2013 State of the Enterprise Cloud Report will offer insights into enterprise adoption and usage of cloud computing trends. According to Chris Drumgoole, senior vice president of cloud operations, Verizon Terremark, "With high data storage requirements and constantly changing usage patterns, complex enterprise applications can often be more cost-effectively operated in the cloud than in a local enterprise data center. The report will validate that government and enterprises are embracing the cloud for all the right reasons."