Cloud computing calculator helps agencies save money

MeriTalk launched its cloud computing calculator earlier this year, and it looks like cloud is actually saving the federal government money.

Steve O’Keeffe is MeriTalk’s founder, and tells us more about the calculator, who’s used it so far, and where you can find additional resources if you’re looking at cloud.

SO: [It] is a tool that allows government agencies to put in their existing budgets for enterprise IT spend, and after a series of questions associated with the sensitivity of data and such, and press a button and find out what the cost implications would be associated with moving to cloud computing.

FCB: Is this something that is just for the U.S. Federal government, or can any government official use it? Let’s say I [work for] a local government and I’m interested in cloud computing. Can I use it too?

SO: You can, but we specifically built the input field to align with the information the federal government has . . . so, it’s really developed for the federal government.

FCB: How did you go about gathering some of this data and formulating some of these questions, because . . . there is a lot of disparity in terms of budget, supplies and what agencies need.

SO: We went out and we did a data call, which was open to anybody in industry . . . for cloud savings calculators. There are many, many different tools out there being used by different vendors.

The concern from the government’s standpoint is, if you use a vendor’s calculator, that it’s essentially set up in order to sell you more of the stuff the vendor sells.

So, we did [the] open data call to industry last year, and we had contributions from a lot of the largest and some of the smallest organizations who sell technology to the government. . . . They sat around the table [and] provided their models, and then we looked at those various models and looked at the information that the federal government currently has. . . . [Then] we built a framework, which uses some of the information that was provided. We basically picked over the best data conversion ratios from industry.

We built a framework, brought industry back together again and showed them the framework and asked them for their feedback, and then we met with the government.

We met with DISA, Commerce, Energy, GSA, Interior and NASA, and showed them the framework and asked them for their feedback. We received their feedback and made adjustments accordingly — and that is the framework that powers the cloud savings calculator.

FCB: Where does the evidence come from — was it from conversations with Interior and NASA are already doing a bit of cloud computing [and] looking at the cloud — is there any concrete evidence that cloud computing is actually saving the agencies money yet, or is this still up in the air, so to speak?

SO: I think that’s a very good question.

There’s a lot of talk about cloud and there are very many different flavors of cloud, whether that’s private cloud, community cloud, public cloud, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS — there are more flavors of cloud than there are flavors of coffee at Starbucks these days.

So, as everyone’s discussing that and is kind of sweating about security implications, one of the things that’s really been absent from the debate is the numbers. Where’s the business case for moving to cloud?

We put the calculator online early this year, and we’ve had about 100 agencies put their information into the calculator. Based on that data and extrapolating from the 100 or so sources that we have that the whole federal government spent — that we have budget associated with those programs that have been put in — we have been able to extrapolate about a $4 billion savings on steady state investments.

There are two types of IT investments the government puts through — steady state, which is the existing infrastructure maintenance, and BME, which is new development modernization initiatives.

Based on the responses that we’ve got from about 100 or so submissions through various government entities, and extrapolating from that for the whole federal budget, we can see in the steady state area the government can save about $4 billion.

In closing I would say that, as we kind of ring our hands about — should we or shouldn’t we attempt the cloud, I think clearly the direction is that we should.

I think we need to focus increasingly on the business case for the cloud transition.

The reason we built the cloud savings calculator is to provide a platform for public/private interaction and a way to build a tool that allows government agencies to make the business case for the cloud transition.

Additional Resources

MeriTalk Silver Lining Webcast Series

Gartner Cloud Research

Cloud Computing Advisory Council

Google Cloud Calculator

Federal Cloud Computing Wiki

NIST Working Cloud Definition

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