Federal government should lead if it wants standards

Today, our final segment with SpringCM on cloud.

Fed Cloud Blog talked with Roger Bottum, vice president of marketing, and Steve Maier, vice president and general manager of the government solutions division at the company.

We asked the two guests to wrap up and give us some final thoughts about cloud — and where the government needs to go from here.

Roger Bottum:

The general value proposition of cloud is pretty clear. What you can see are different agencies and organizations getting their heads around — how do we think about what kinds of applications make sense for us first to do — and then what are some of the specifics in how we might approach those to meet our requirements? There’s definitely sort of a strategy component going on that you can see quite visibly in some of the projects that are underway already.

Steve Maier:

I think there’s one other thing [which] is, we mentioned the idea that Vince Cerf is pushing for global standards. I guess the one thing I’d want to point out is, the government itself needs to play a lead role in driving those standards.

One, if the government is driving those standards, a lot of times the commercial world will come around to that. [This is] because, as the government drives the business, and they start pushing towards various standards — the one that I dealt with most and was directly involved in was FIPS 127 back in the 1980’s and 90’s.

It drove a standard model for database software vendors to build their products to, so you had true compatibility across products. It didn’t preclude vendors from offering extensions or proprietary features that allowed them to differentiate themselves, but it did, over time, normalize the database market so that everybody had adhere to a core set of features and functions.

In the long run, that’s actually accelerated the use of that technology around the world. As you start looking at the whole world of cloud, their role, I think, it’s key here, as well.

I don’t think any one industry or any one vendor is going to be able to lead that effort on their own.

They can get together a group of people and try, but you see things like the wireless end standards that are in draft for years and years and years and can’t come to any conclusion, because there’s no single entity or single body behind driving it to a single conclusion where the constituent parties can come to an agreement.

I think that’s where the government should be focusing energy going forward.

FCB asked — does this mean FISMA needs to be rewritten? What exactly needs to happen?

Steve Maier:

I wouldn’t say FISMA reform. I think bringing more clarity to what’s required in the cloud [is what is needed].

I don’t think any individual CIO in the government could tell you what was actually required — [in] their organization, from a FISMA compliance perspective — when it applied to cloud computing.

I think that’s something that NIST has been given the charter to do — helping the government first, obviously, and then constituent standard organizations in understanding what those best practices are.

I don’t know that there’s any reform needed, other than what you would expect in terms of what is happening in this market, which is an accelerating dynamic that the government could help move faster if there were more people focused on it.

The government buys a lot of its IT services from large government contractors.

One of the things that we have seen is those contractors, with the exception of those that operate in a classified environment, are — and have been now for the past two years that I’ve been involved in SpringCM — adopting cloud technologies internally so that they can improve the efficiency of their businesses.

It is going to become a natural for them to start taking that to market when the government is ready to start adopting these technologies, as well.

Most, if not all of them, already have internal production experience with cloud technologies.

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