Where will VanRoekel take cloud computing?

August 8, 2011

Steven VanRoekel was named the second-ever federal chief information officer this week. VanRoekel is no stranger to government. He most recently worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Before that he was at the Federal Communications Commission and Microsoft.

VanRoekel will be taking over where Vivek Kundra leaves off – leading an IT community that has been charged with helping the government save money via data center consolidation and using newer, innovative technologies like cloud computing. Under his leadership, the FCC was the first agency to take its full web presence to a FISMA-compliant cloud.

“What I really saw at the Federal Communications Commission is that this notion of re-imagining government in the context of the pace of innovation of private industry can be done in government,” VanRoekel said at a White House press briefing this week. “And it can be done in such a way that can save money, save resources and everything else. We were in lock step with Vivek’s team here on data center consolidation, our cloud-first policy and using tools like TechStat and all of that, even though we were an independent agency we were doing everything to close that productivity gap and make things better. I saw what could be done. Now I’m really excited about the ability to take that work and scale it to the broader notion of government and take the momentum and impact things broadly.”

VanRoekel will have one week on the job with Kundra before Kundra leaves for a fellowship at Harvard University, but it’s clear the work Kundra started will be expanded upon under the new CIO.

“Vivek’s work was really the first step in a larger rework of government IT,” VanRoekel said. “It lays an amazing foundation on which we can build a new set of phenomenon. Looking at things like more in the open government space, looking at shared services across agencies, looking at procurement, purchase and IT investment models are something I really want to explore. This is all very early thinking, of course. These are all things I’ve struggled with at the FCC, that we found creative ways to work in the context of government, and I’m excited that can actually scale pretty broadly.”


Feds could save $20 billion using cloud computing

February 17, 2011

Approximately $20 billion of the $80 billion the government spends on information technology is a potential target for migration to the cloud, according to the new Federal Cloud Computing Strategy. The document was released by federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra February 8.

According to estimates, the departments of Homeland Security and Treasury have the most potential to save. Both agencies reported to the Office of Management and Budget they believe they could save over $2.4 billion each by using cloud computing. The Defense Department, Veterans Affairs, and Transportation believe they could save over $2 billion each (See graph below).

The strategy comes on the heels of a cloud-first policy instituted by the Obama administration as part of its 25-Point IT Plan.

“The cloud computing model can significantly help agencies grappling with the need to provide highly reliable, innovative services quickly despite resource constraints,” Kundra said.

According to the document, the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy was developed to:

  • Articulate the benefits, considerations, and trade-offs of cloud computing;
  • Provide a decision framework and case examples to support agencies in migrating towards cloud computing;
  • Highlight cloud computing implementation resources; and,
  • Identify federal government activities and roles and responsibilities for catalyzing cloud adoption.

The three-step framework laid out in the strategy gives agencies issues to think about when making the move to the cloud. It also offers an official definition of cloud computing as determined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“Successful organizations carefully consider their broad IT portfolios and create roadmaps for cloud deployment and migration,” said Kundra.”These roadmaps prioritize services that have high expected value and high readiness to maximize benefits received and minimize delivery risk.”

The strategy also outlines the importance of security when determining whether something should be moved to the cloud. It points out six specific security considerations:

  • Statutory compliance to laws, regulations, and agency requirements;
  • Data characteristics to assess which fundamental protections an application’s data set requires;
  • Privacy and confidentiality to protect against accidental and nefarious access to information;
  • Integrity to ensure data is authorized, complete, and accurate;
  • Data controls and access policies to determine where data can be stored and who can access physical locations; and,
  • Governance to ensure that cloud computing service providers are sufficiently transparent, have adequate security and management controls, and provide the information necessary for the agency to appropriately and independently assess and monitor the efficacy of those controls.

The strategy also outlines security benefits of using the cloud including the ability to refocus resources on areas of higher concern, potential platform strength due to greater uniformity, improved resource availability and backup and recovery capabilities, and the ability to leverage alternate cloud services to improve the overall security of the agency.

Kundra said he expects all agencies to re-evaluate their technology sourcing strategies and determine where cloud computing may be possible as part of their budget process.

“Cloud computing can be implemented using a variety of deployment models – private, community, public, or a hybrid combination,” Kundra said.

As the number of cloud computing providers increases, Kundra said the General Services Administration will offer tools which agencies can use to compare the offerings from various companies.

(Courtesy of the Office of Management and Budget)


HUD defines current and future cloud use

February 8, 2011

In our continuing quest to find out how agencies are currently using the cloud and how they plan to use it in the future, Federal News Radio caught up with Chris Neidermayer, deputy chief information officer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In light of the Office of Management and Budget’s cloud-first policy, we asked Neidermayer where HUD is headed and if the agency is looking at the cloud for anything like email.

Neidermayer says, “Not yet. We’ve tried to narrow our focus to what we have the capacity to support. Those are things that are on the horizon. We have adopted the cloud-first approach where those services are available. We want to define why we couldn’t use them before we eliminate using them. We are in a private cloud for all of our infrastructure…We’re already there in that regard and that has helped us understand the value of those types of services.”

Hear more from Neidermayer and HUD CIO Jerry Williams. Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller recently had them as guests on his Ask the CIO program.


OMB releases details of cloud-first policy for agencies

December 12, 2010

The use of cloud computing is one of the major aspects of the administration’s “25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management.” OMB recently announced a cloud-first policy for agency IT programs moving forward.

Last week, OMB released more details on its cloud computing plans for agencies.   

Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller reports, OMB wants every agency to identify three “must move” technologies that will go to the cloud by March, move at least one of them by the end of 2011, and the other two within 18 months.

The report from Kundra says he will “publish a strategy to accelerate the safe and secure adoption of cloud computing across the government” within the next six months.

In addition, the implementation plan says the General Services Administration will use requirements developed by the Software-as-a-Service E-mail Working Group to “stand up government-wide contract vehicles for cloud-based email solutions. GSA will also begin a similar process specifically designed for other back-end, cloud-based solutions.” This will happen within the next 12 months.

The plan also requires agencies by 2015 to reduce the number of data centers by at least one-third, or 800, from the more than 2,100 they reported earlier this year. OMB said agencies must “designate a data center program manager…who will be 100 percent dedicated to and accountable for driving change.” It also will “launch a data center consolidation task force of data center program managers, sustainability officers and facilities managers” to review the progress and ensure agencies are on similar paths. OMB will create a public dashboard to track agency progress.

Industry is also responding to the new cloud computing requirements for agencies. Read Jason Miller’s report.


All eyes on GSA’s cloud move

December 6, 2010

GSA announced last week that it has hired Unisys to move its e-mail to the cloud. Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller reports agencies and vendors are closely watching the move as a “proof of concept for the rest of government.”

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra admits if GSA shows moving its e-mail to the cloud can be done then other agencies are likely to follow suit.

GSA’s move comes on the heels of OMB’s announcement that agencies will be required to adopt a “cloud-first policy” when it comes to new IT deployments.

Be sure to check out Jason Miller’s full report on the Unisys deal, including more from Kundra, GSA CIO Casey Coleman, and Dave McClure, GSA’s associate administrator for citizen services and innovative technologies, by clicking the link above.


OMB announces ‘cloud first’ policy for agencies

November 23, 2010

Big news this week on the cloud computing front. Agencies are being required by the Office of Management and Budget to adopt a “cloud-first” policy as part of the 2012 budget process.

Jeff Zients, chief performance officer and deputy director for management at OMB, made the announcement during a speech at the Northern Virginia Technology Council in Vienna, Va.

“What this means is that going forward, when evaluating options for new IT deployments, OMB will require that agencies default to cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists,” Zients said.

Zients also said OMB will help agencies with this by setting up secure, governmentwide cloud computing platforms.

“These platforms will allow agencies to easily adopt cloud solutions for systems, such as infrastructure, email, and productivity suites.”

The move is part of the administration’s overall goals to improve the way government manages information technology. This includes the administration’s efforts to consolidate its data centers.

Zients said OMB wants to reduce the number of data centers by at least 40 percent by 2015.

“By March, we will announce firm targets and agency implementation plans for our data center consolidation initiative, a terrain ripe for shared services and common solutions.”

Federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra will hold an open meeting on Dec. 9 to discuss the execution plans that address these changes. Additional details are to be announced by OMB by Dec. 14.

Listen to Zients’ full speech by clicking the link above. The news about cloud computing comes about 30 minutes into the speech.


NASA discusses challenges of data center consolidation

November 3, 2010

It’s been more than nine months since the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative began with the intent to reduce energy usage, lower IT costs and improve security. And some federal agencies are discovering that it’s difficult to reduce spending without putting some money upfront first.

NASA is just one of the federal agencies trying to streamline their IT practices and improve efficiency. Chris Kemp, NASA’s chief technology officer for IT, says it’s been a challenge to consolidate because the agency uses many different types of IT infrastructure.

Kemp says aggregating data wouldn’t be such a daunting task if the agency had the same type and size of servers and other universal equipment. The virtualization transition will take several years and Kemp says the IT department is researching how they can achieve maximum savings.

NASA is also working with company that provides software-as-a-service model that will collect information from an appliance installed on the network and send that information back to an analytical engine in their own data center.

Federal agencies submitted their data center consolidation plans to the Office of Management and Budget two months ago. OMB is going through the plans and hopes they’ll be put into action next year.