Kingsberry's agency moved its Recovery.gov website to Amazon.com's EC2 cloud service in April 2010. He says the agency decided to make the leap after successfully using the cloud for testing, although IT leaders at the agency still performed a rigorous analysis before making the move. They considered, among other factors, how cloud computing would fare in terms of performance, cost and security.
Classified Data? Not in the Cloud
IT leaders are constantly weighing cloud computing's benefits against its security risks.
In its spring survey of 375 federal, state and local government IT decision-makers and influencers, CompTIA found that 44% of cloud implementers rated network security as a top challenge. Thirty-six percent listed compliance with security mandates as a top challenge, while 35% cited data loss prevention and 35% pointed to hardware security.
Tim Herbert, vice president of research at CompTIA, says CIOs are concerned about keeping data and systems safe from malicious attacks and establishing data governance procedures in an environment that encourages collaboration and sharing.
"It comes up a lot -- security and policies. And it comes up in the private sector, too," he says. "Some of that concern is reality, and some of it is perception."
At the very least, analysts say, those security concerns will keep classified data out of the cloud for the time being even as the General Services Administration and other agencies establish security standards. And it will likely limit to some degree the amount of less-sensitive data that migrates to the cloud as well.
So far, the cloud has delivered, says Kingsberry. Using cloud services saved about $750,000 in the first year for Recovery.gov, a site for sharing data and information related to the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Kingsberry says he expects more savings in the future, since the site will be able to scale up without requiring investments in new hardware.
"Obviously, one of the key drivers behind the federal government [cloud initiative] is Vivek Kundra's [push] for cost-cutting," says JP Morgenthal, cloud evangelist at Smartronix, a Hollywood, Md.-based consultancy that helped the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board move Recovery.gov to the cloud.
Big Bucks on the Line
The amount of money at stake is significant. In its "Federal Cloud Weather Report," released in April, MeriTalk, a social network for government IT professionals, found that cloud implementations could produce $14.4 billion in savings in the first year.