July 12, 2012, 12:22 PM — Federal agencies must be assured priority and uninterrupted access to public cloud resources before fully embracing the technology for national security and emergency response IT functions, a recent report finds.
The government's "Cloud First" policy mandates that as many applications and workloads be moved to the cloud as possible, but a report from the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee finds that cloud technologies related to service uptime, interoperability and security are largely not yet mature enough to handle some of the government's most sensitive workloads.
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Will the federal government eventually move those national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) functions to the cloud? "If and when cloud computing can demonstrate a regime of policy, legal authority, security and oversight that is comparably rigorous, complete and trustworthy relative to those currently in place for NS/EP activities via legacy means, then the response is 'yes,'" the report states. But first, the cloud market needs to mature a little bit more.
No doubt there are benefits to embracing the cloud, the report states. Outsourcing IT functions to commercial cloud providers can reduce IT capital expenditures and the ability to scale up workloads creates more agility. But for NS/EP IT functions, cost savings are secondary. The priority is improved mission performance and being assured those resources are available during a national emergency. Downtime is unacceptable. "Fundamental requirements of NS/EP include a high degree of assured availability under any condition of stress; high measures of system and content integrity; confidentiality as required by specific missions; and mechanisms for priority access to resources in the performance of NS/EP functions," the report states.