Feds race to the cloud

Tasked with adopting cloud computing as a first option in all IT projects, federal agencies are now grappling with the hard realities of making the policy work.

By Mary K. Pratt, Computerworld |  Cloud Computing

According to MeriTalk's recent report, 79% of federal CIOs say their agencies aren't adopting the "cloud first" policy, and only 64% say they plan to embrace that approach in the next two years.

Moreover, at the time of the survey, only 17% of federal CIOs were using infrastructure as a service, 15% were using software as a service, and 13% were using platform as a service, according to MeriTalk. However, 20% said they were planning to move to infrastructure as a service, 22% were planning to start using software as a service, and 19% said they had a platform-as-a-service project in the works.

Support for the government's cloud initiative continues even though Kundra announced that in August http://www.computerworld.com/spring/bp/detail/853 he has held since 2009 to take a fellowship at Harvard University.

"Vivek is the visionary guy, but the next step now is really around policy and governance," says Morgenthal. "These are less visionary and more detail-oriented, so in certain regards it's good timing, so whoever comes in next can be more structured and eliminate those hurdles."

Kingsberry says he thinks the government should act faster.

"Federal still doesn't move at the pace that it can. There's risk aversion throughout it. And because of that, there isn't going to be this massive move," he says. "But this is a journey, and there are steps. There will be stop points, and right now this is one of the stop points. The next step is for federal as a whole to embrace and understand the performance characteristics for actually making this move."

But Rosen says the move to cloud computing shouldn't be thought of as a race.

"My approach is, let's start with something simple, something we can encapsulate, and start with that and then move that into the cloud," he says, noting that IT grew wary of megaprojects for a good reason -- in the past, they often led to big failures. "I'm trying to do [cloud computing] in ways so we don't make mistakes and waste a lot of money, and if we find it doesn't work we can back out."

Perhaps, then, despite all of the hype around the benefits of cloud computing, the migration of federal IT to the cloud won't be an all-out sprint so much as a well-paced marathon.

Sidebar: Glacial change

More and more federal IT leaders are moving to the cloud, according to a survey of 46 CIOs of major federal departments and independent agencies that was conducted by TechAmerica and Grant Thornton LLP. However, the May 2011 survey showed that progress is slow:

-- 57% reported that an active move to cloud computing was under way in early 2011, compared with 54% in late 2009.

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