Cloud, cloud, everywhere there’s cloud

January 30, 2011

Wow. So much news about cloud, so little time. Good thing we have this blog, right?

Federal News Radio was busy covering news about cloud computing this week. We’ve gathered all of those stories here for easy access.

  • Army weeks away from enterprise e-mail rollout
    The Army will begin migrating employees to its new cloud-based e-mail system starting February 15. Federal News Radio reporter Jared Serbu reports testing for the Army’s new e-mail is almost complete. The Army expects the change will mean a significant savings in software licensing.

  • Behind the USDA cloud
    The cloud services offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have become quite popular among other federal agencies. Federal Tech Talk host John Gilroy talks with Jim Stevens, Acting Deputy Chief Information Officer for Business, Finance and Security about what the agency offers and how your agency can compare security of the various cloud options out there.

  • Exclusive: OMB uses budget to set cyber guidelines
    The administration’s recently announced cloud-first policy was one of several governmentwide provisions specifically mentioned in the annual IT budget passback guidance. In his exclusive report, Federal News Radio reporter Jason Miller says the “guidance also instructs agencies to consider the technologies that have been approved under the FEDRamp process.”

  • Microsoft announces new cloud computing option
    Microsoft has made its customer-relationship management application available online. The cloud version will be available worldwide beginning Feb. 28, 2011.

  • What will the Google bid protest mean for cloud?
    Off the Shelf host Roger Waldron talks with David Dowd, partner at Mayer Brown, about the Google/Microsoft/Interior Department cloud decision recently handed down. The Interior Department had been ordered to stay an award to Microsoft after a judge ruled it violated the Competition in Contracting Act and rules in the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Waldron and Dowd discuss the potential implications for agency requirements development and acquisition planning.

Microsoft to host cloud services for USDA

December 28, 2010
The U.S. Department of Agriculture now has a blooming relationship with Microsoft.

Earlier this month, Microsoft and the USDA reached an agreement to have Microsoft host email for as many as 120,000 employees.

The company will also manage the USDA’s software and networks, as part of the agreement.

USDA employees currently use 21 different email systems at the agency’s 5,000 offices around the world. The agency hopes to start moving employees to Microsoft’s hosted service within the next month.

Employees will also have access to other Microsoft applications, such as SharePoint, Office Communications – an instant messaging service, and Live Meeting – a web-conferencing application.

“This migration is the culmination of USDA’s effort to streamline agency messaging, reduce costs and improve efficiencies that build on existing infrastructure and allow USDA to extend its on-premises software investments to the cloud solution,” Microsoft and the USDA said in a joint statement.

The agreement is a big deal for Microsoft, who recently lost a contract with the General Services Administration to host email.

Also this month, Microsoft announced it had achieved certification under the Federal Information Security Management Act.

The USDA isn’t alone in its decision to use Microsoft. Minnesota, California and New York City have all chosen Microsoft for cloud-based email.

Microsoft gets FISMA certification

December 15, 2010
Google will soon be fighting for room on the cloud with rival Microsoft.

Microsoft recently received Federal Information Security Management Act certification for cloud computing data centers — about five months after Google gained approval.

“Meeting the requirements of FISMA is an important security requirement for U.S. Federal agencies,” Microsoft’s Senior Director of Risk and Compliance Mark Estberg wrote in a Dec. 2 Global Foundation Services blog post.

However, Microsoft’s hosted Exchange and Online services are still in the process of getting approved for FISMA certification.

Microsoft recently reworked its cloud services and renamed it “Office 365.” Office 365 is currently in beta form and includes Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Exchange, Lync Online and other services. Office 365 will be available beginning in the first half of next year.

And while Microsoft was celebrating its approval, the General Services Administration announced plans to become the first federal agency to move its email and collaboration tools to Google’s cloud-based service, Google Apps.

Microsoft said it was “disappointed” with the GSA’s selection.

“While we are disappointed we will not have the opportunity to meet the GSA’s internal messaging needs, we will continue to serve its productivity needs through the familiar experience of Microsoft Office and we look forward to understanding more about GSA’s selection criteria – especially around security and architecture,” Micrsoft wrote on its Why Microsoft blog.

Great week for Microsoft’s cloud services

December 12, 2010

Two good pieces of news for Microsoft on the cloud computing front.

Microsoft has received its FISMA certification. Microsoft CTO Susie Adams said in a company blog post, “Adding FISMA to our existing list of accreditations provides even greater transparency into our security processes and further reinforces our commitment to providing secure cloud computing options to federal agencies.”  

At the same time, the Agriculture Department says it’s ready to move to Microsoft’s cloud services. USDA awarded Dell a contract in May for Microsoft online services.  The move to Microsoft’s Enterprise Messaging Service (EMS) includes e-mail, Web conferencing, document collaboration and instant messaging. Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller reports under the deal Dell will move 120,000 USDA employees out of 21 separate e-mail systems and into the EMS system. The transition will begin within the next month.

All of this news comes on the heels of last week’s announcement by the General Services Administration that it has awarded Unisys a contract to move its email to the cloud using Google Apps for Government.

Cloud lovers converge at ‘Cloudstock’

December 7, 2010
What do you call hundreds of cloud developers stuck in a room together? Why, Cloudstock, of course.
A cloud computing technical conference – dubbed by some as “The Woodstock for Cloud Developers” took place in San Francisco this week.
Its mission was to “bring the top cloud developers and the top cloud technologies together under one roof, to learn from each other, collaborate, innovate, and drive the future of cloud computing,” according to the Cloudstock website.

The free conference sold out and featured 67 sessions, ranging from everything from understanding API activity to making money with Saas to the future of app deployment to business payments on the cloud.

Organizers live blogged throughout the day and had Tweets automatically filtering in on their site with the hashtag “cloudstock.” Cloudstock also had several demo stations, which highlighted some of the latest cloud technologies in action.

Another unique aspect of the conference was “The Cloudstock Hackathon,” which challenged developers to use their coding skills against one another and create solutions to bridge clouds.

The conference was hosted by and Cloudstock partners included Google, Amazon web services, eBay, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Adobe and Paypal. Microsoft and its cloud computing services were noticeably absent from the conference.

Google Files Suit Against Interior Department

November 23, 2010

Google has filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department in an attempt to prevent the agency from going ahead with bid requests to host a cloud-based electronic messaging system.

According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Google says they met with Interior Department officials on several occasions asking them to consider them and their “cost saving benefits” and assure them that Google’s applications could care for the agency’s needs.

Google maintains that the Interior Department’s request for quotations was written to prevent the company from competing because it required the system to include the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite.

In April of 2010 – after a year of communicating with the Interior Department about competing for the contract – Google says they were informed by Interior Department Chief Technology Officer William Corrington that a “path forward had already been chosen” for the service, and that there was no opportunity for Google to compete because it did not comply with Interior Department security requirements, according to the lawsuit.

The contract is estimated to pay $59 million over five years.

Google filed the lawsuit with its partner Onix Networking on Oct. 29.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google and Microsoft are also competing for a contract to consolidate and modernize email at the General Services Administration.

NOAA pilots cloud solutions

August 17, 2010

Today, the FCB hears from Joe Klimavicz, chief information officer and director of high performance computing and communications at NOAA.

He tells us about some pilot programs they’re running in order to see if cloud is the correct solution for them.

“It’s a great, flexible, open environment allowing access and interoperability between the different environments, and [could reduce the] complexity and maintenance of our environment. I think that we’re helping a lot of organizations go through the FISMA certification and accreditation. So, I think that cloud computing is coming into its own.

We’ve run pilots with Google Apps, and also Microsoft’s BPOS — their Business Productivity Online Suite. We also have a pilot with Everbridge, the emergency notification system — and [we are] trying to make sure that during an emergency we can reach all of our employees. As scattered about the country as we are [with] a lot of planes and ships and remote [locations], that’s a challenge, but we think that that’s the way to go there.

Also, we’ve been working with GSA on the certification and accreditation, so we’re following what’s going on there. That’s been a big hurdle, I think, [but] it’s coming about. We understand where we need to be from a security perspective.

I also think that service level agreements that include exit strategies — I think everyone understands that once you get into the cloud, you need to make sure that you can get out or change your business model if that is necessary.

So, to me this makes sense. The technology is there. . . . [Our work] is all characterized as pilots. We’ve got a lot of innovative and creative folks at NOAA that tend to want to use state of the art technologies, and I don’t try to discourage that at all.

I think what we need to do is take advantage of all this technology and look at [it], and then it’s my job to sort through all the emerging technologies [and decide] which ones are real, [and] which ones can be supported in the long term to best meet our mission requirements.”

Hear more of Joe Klimavicz’s interview on Ask the CIO.