GAO issues RFI for cloud services

August 4, 2011

The Government Accountability Office is looking into possible cloud computing options. The agency recently issued a request for information for cloud services as it tries to enhance its IT systems in an age of decreasing budgets.

“In facing both an expected decrease in resources and the impending end of life for major elements of its existing infrastructure, GAO is looking for avenues to not merely maintain the existing environment but to take steps to transform it into an environment that is more cost-effective, sustainable and aligned with future business needs,” GAO wrote in the RFI.

GAO noted its multiple locations around the country, its massive amounts of data, and security as three of the main things vendors should consider when submitting their responses to the agency.

Interested companies have until 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 26 to reply to the RFI.

GAO is the latest in a long list of agencies interested in cloud computing. The government’s 25-point IT reform plan released in December called on agencies to identify three current systems to move to the cloud. The plan also called for agencies to follow a cloud-first policy when evaluating options for new IT systems.

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra has said he believes $20 billion of the $80 billion government spends on IT is a potential for migration to the cloud.


Don’t fear the cloud, Kundra says

August 1, 2011

Fears about the security of cloud computing are exaggerated, Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said at a forum on Capitol Hill last week.

“A lot of people are sort of driving this notion of fear around security,” Kundra said, according to Computer World. “And the reason I think that’s been amplified, frankly, is because it preserves the status quo.”

The conference was organized by Kundra and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) to address the future of cloud computing in the federal government.

While security remains a major concern and, in some cases, a roadblock to public cloud adoption, agencies like the Department of Homeland Security are bucking the trend. DHS announced in May plans to move its public websites to the public cloud.

“I am a believer that we are going to, over the next few years, really solve a lot of the cybersecurity concerns that we have with cloud-based services,” DHS CIO Richard Spires said at the forum, according to Computer World.

Kundra also believes the shift to cloud computing will mean stiffer competition among government contractors. According to Federal Times, “Kundra said the administration wants to ‘introduce Darwinian pressure’ into the market to ensure that companies win government IT contracts because they provide greater efficiencies, not because they’ve mastered the procurement process.”

Saving money has been a major topic of conversation on Capitol Hill in recent weeks as lawmakers sparred over raising the debt ceiling.

During the forum, Sen. Carper said the use of cloud computing and smarter IT overall is one of the biggest ways to save money in government.

“We need to look into every nook and cranny of the federal government and find better results for less money . . . One of the great ways you can provide better service for less money is to do IT well and to do it smart,” Carper said, according to NextGov.


This week’s latest cloud news

July 28, 2011

Two big stories Federal News Radio is following this week when it comes to cloud computing.

Industry leaders are calling on the federal government to revise its acquisition and budgeting practices, in hopes of accelerating the adoption of cloud services. The CLOUD2 commission made recommendations to government earlier this week.

“Agencies should demonstrate flexibility in adapting current procurement models and existing contracts to take advantage of new cloud offerings,” according to the group.

Federal News Radio’s Ruben Gomez reports the CLOUD2 report was requested by Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra.

The commission also recommended industry launch new transparency efforts to publicize information about operational aspects of cloud services, including portability, performance and reliability.


In other cloud news, the General Services Administration became the first agency to migrate its entire staff into a cloud email system. All 17,000 of its users are officially in the cloud as of this week.

“In GSA, we have a motto that we have broad shoulders,” said Dave McClure, GSA’s associate administrator for citizen services and innovative technologies. “We need to be actually doing what we’re recommending other agencies do.”

Federal News Radio’s Jared Serbu reports 15 other agencies have identified almost one million federal email accounts they want to move to the cloud.


Cloud means billions in energy savings, research says

July 23, 2011

By 2020, large companies in the U.S. could save up to $12.3 billion annually in energy costs by investing in cloud computing, according to research firm Verdantix.

“Take the example of a global food and beverage firm with revenues of $10 billion which transitioned its HR application to a public cloud. This firm could reduce CO2 emissions by 30,000 metric tons over five years,” said Stuart Neumann of Verdantix in a press release. “Financial benefits from more efficient use of IT hardware, reduced energy consumption from data cent[res] and a reduced support team mean firms can achieve a payback in under a year.”

Verdantix expects companies with revenues of $1 billion or more to spend 69 percent of their infrastructure, platform and software budgets on cloud services by 2020. It believes this will result in CO2 emissions reductions of 85.7 million tons each year.

According to the research, the Department of Energy believes data centers now make up three percent of total energy consumption in the U.S. – double what it was in 2000.

Companies interviewed for the research listed security concerns, service reliability, vendor lock-in, and a lack of complete understanding of the cost savings as their top barriers to cloud adoption.

To complete its report, Verdantix examined 11 firms that have been using the cloud for at least two years.


Cloud computing to drive global job creation

July 20, 2011

The growth of cloud computing is expected to create 2.4 million jobs in the next four years in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, according to Cloudtweaks.com. The prediction comes from a report released by IT company EMC and a United Kingdom think tank.

In India alone, the cloud market is expected to increase from $400 million today to $4.5 billion by 2015, reports Indo Asian News Service. That growth could translate into 100,000 new jobs in India, according to a survey of CIOs in that country.

“Cloud computing will reshape the Indian IT market by generating new opportunities for vendors and driving changes in traditional IT offerings,” said Pari Natrajan, chief executive of management consultant company Zinnov, according to IANS.

For cloud adoption to grow, people are going to need human resources as well, IANS quotes an IT company executive as saying.

How the cloud will impact U.S. job creation is unclear now. Although the manufacturing sector of the technology industry continues to shed jobs, jobs in software services are growing, according to Global Corporate XPansion.

Josh James, director of research and industry analysis, TechAmerica, told GCX: “Software services were the only one out of four sectors [which TechAmerica tracks] to add jobs. The sector showed strong employment records throughout the ups and downs in the economy. They were the last to get rid of jobs in the middle of the economic downturn and the first to start adding again.”


Cisco announces enhancements to cloud offerings

July 16, 2011

By 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the network, according to Padmasree Warrior, senior vice president of engineering and the chief technology officer at Cisco. That, of course, raises even more security issues for companies and agencies dealing with employees who would like to use those devices.

At its annual CiscoLive event held this week in Las Vegas, the company announced multiple upgrades to its cloud offerings to help customers deal with these issues.

Its Unified Computing System has expanded to include “new Fabric Interconnects, a new Virtual Interface Card and a new chassis I/O module,” according to a press release. Cisco said the improvements increase bandwidth to the chassis and the server, while “doubling the switching capacity of the data center fabric.”

It also introduced new email security features as part of its cloud security solutions to deal with the rising number of targeted attacks companies have seen more recently.

Cisco also announced advances to its WAAS product line. “The new context-aware DRE [data redundancy elimination] improves application response times and throughput by changing the DRE caching behavior on a per-application and per-branch office basis. This context-aware capability provides ‘performance fairness’ across all branches and improves the end-user experience,” Cisco said in its release.

You can watch Warrior’s keynote address from the event, see a demonstration of some of the company’s new cloud offerings, and see other discussions on the cloud, at the CiscoLive website. (Free registration is required.)

According to Cisco, more than 15,000 people attended the Las Vegas event and another 40,000 in 150 countries tuned in online.


DoD, HUD, Interior ramp up cloud usage

July 13, 2011

Agencies across the federal government are increasing their use of the cloud. Over the past week, Federal News Radio has covered several agencies moving in that direction including Defense, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development.

The Defense Contract Management Agency told Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller moving to zero client computers is one of its top priorities. Jacob Haynes, DCMA’s chief information officer, said it’s the next step beyond thin client computers.

“A zero client device is the size of a small book and it sits on the desk and you plug all peripherals in to it, instead of having a hard drive or CD-ROM drive, all the things that forces mass in regular computers is done in the cloud,” he said. “That includes the storage, the computing power and anything else. The device is just there messaging.”

At the same time, the Interior Department announced its plans to transform its IT infrastructure. Interior says the four-year project will save $500 million from 2016-2020. Part of those money-saving efforts come in the form of cloud utilization, according to a separate report from Miller.

“We currently manage 13 stand-alone email systems at DOI, a result of the dispersed nature of the agency and a legacy of piecemeal development of IT at the bureau level,” agency CIO Bernard Mazer wrote in a CIO.gov blog. “We are in the process of consolidating these systems into a unified, cloud-based email service that will support 85,000 users across DOI. DOI.gov will also be moving to a cloud platform in order to better accommodate the five-million visitors per year who use the site. Of course, both of these initiatives will lead to cost savings, but the cloud also promises better service, such as guaranteed 99.9 percent uptime for both projects.”

After outsourcing much of its network infrastructure, HUD says it now wants to put it in the cloud.

“What is not there in a managed services contract is the business model of cloud. We do not have the elasticity. Prices do not go down when we use less,” Chief Technology Officer Mark Day said at a recent conference. “Managed services is what you might consider the high water mark price. If we ever bought that much of the infrastructure, we pay for that much of the infrastructure. In a cloud, you go up and down as your needs change. That is really what we are doing. It’s not a technical move for us. It’s a business model move in the procurement realm.”