Future of cloud lies with interoperability between clouds

Fed Cloud Blog continues its conversation with David Lucas, chief strategy officer at GCE Federal.

Today, we start off by asking him about the advantages of being compliant with federal security standards.

DL: It gives you an advantage because you’re not starting from a blank piece of paper. All of your security controls are documented. All of your processes are documents and against a set of standards that the federal government recognizes.

So, you get a big head start. Instead of, for example, taking a year to go through a certification and accreditation process, it might only take you a couple of months. Each agency is going to have its own flavor — it’s own nuance and set of security requirements, and they’re going to go through their process.

But, having all the documentation and all of these pieces in place that you can leverage, dramatically speeds the up the process of provisioning a new customer.

FCB: Does GCE offer clouds for private companies, or do you just focus on the federal government?

DL: Right now, we’re focused on really targeting the federal government. This is the area of most need. It’s also an area where we think there is the biggest return on investment for the customer.

Clouds work really well where enterprise business standards are already in place. I’m talking about not just the security piece, but down to the business process itself.

In the financial management line of business, OMB has really articulated — to a great deal of detail — how financial systems ought to operate [and] what requirements need to be met by federal agencies.

So, we’ve pre-built all of the requirements into our systems. We’re really well positioned to offer a great return on investment, not just because we’re using a cloud, but because we have a pre-configured, pre-integrated suite of software.

For us, as a software provider — the service that we offer is a software-as-a-service, not just a platform or the infrastructure. We’re giving people the ability to literally turn on their computers, plug into a cloud, and get to work with a new set of tools.

So, we’ve got our eye squarely on the federal marketplace, where we think we can return high value, and also reduce a lot of the risk and cost that agencies have seen in the past when they’ve tried to build all this stuff from scratch.

FCB: Any thoughts on where GCE might be going next?

DL: We’ve generated a whole lot of interest, for sure, with respect to our offering in the cloud. There’s a lot of other departments that really look, not just at GCE specifically, but at this model — how can this model deliver value to their organization?

To those folks, what I really say is, maybe you can take a page from the private sector and try to figure out how to move through your solitictation process with this goal in mind.

Right now, financial management systems take years to acquire. From the time a federal agency identifies the need to the moment that a vendor begins the process of modernizing their system. It can take years just to award the work.

So, what the federal government really needs to do, I think, is not only set standards for cloud computing and begin to build on ones that are already in place, but really start figuring out how to take advantage of this model now, not years from now.

I was reviewing some of the [posts on FCB] and looking at what some of the other folks have been commenting on, and a lot of people are asking — how will a cloud play in the next few years with respect to SOA and other enterprise integration efforts?

One thing that may be interesting to note here is that, as there becomes more and more of a critical mass of business services in a cloud — not just financial services, like we have — but HR services, travel services, and lots of other types of services.

Over time you can see communities of clouds and federations of clouds becoming interoperate — really interoperate, such that that interoperability will really prove to be tremendously valuable to the federal government. What I mean by that is, instead of building lots of interfaces between systems, interoperability between clouds will dramatically shorten the lifecycle of getting data from one place to another.

So, there could be great efficiencies in the interoperability of clouds, but to get there, we have to create this critical mass of business services in a cloud now.

We think we’re one of the first guys out of the gate on that.

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