Cloud-first policy, cloud security top of mind for feds

April 12, 2011

Federal News Radio covered two big stories this week on cloud computing. Check them out!

Cloud computing e-discovery risks a concern
Federal lawyers and record managers are watching closely how the General Services Administration, the Agriculture Department and others move their email and collaboration services to private sector cloud computing providers. Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller says they have questions about accessing data if the government faces a lawsuit.

Kundra details cloud-first success stories
Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra was on hand at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s latest Cloud Computing Forum and Workshop. During a Q&A session, Kundra discussed some of the success stories for the Obama administration’s cloud-first policy. Listen to the Q&A by clicking the link above.

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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.


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.


How Benefits.gov uses the cloud to its advantage

November 30, 2010

Many federal agencies are contemplating the use of the cloud. But Benefits.gov has already made the jump according to program manager Curtis Turner. Part of the reason – to reduce costs on equipment maintenance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides the Labor Department with the hosting environment for the site.

“Part of their mission is to provide services to other federal agencies. In our search for an adequate host, a business decision was made to continue to host with a federal government agency that we know is in compliance with all the government rules and regulations regarding technology,” Turner tells Federal News Radio.

Turner says at the time DoL made the decision “industry was just starting to shape its product set for what was then known as cloud computing. No single individual vendor at the time was offering what we needed to have. It just didn’t meet our requirements.”

Hear the full interview with Turner by clicking the link above.


Food and Nutrition Service uses cloud to help people eat healthier

July 28, 2010

Jonathan Alboum is the chief information officer of the Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service.

He’s played a big role in the Apps for Healthy Kids program.

Today he tells us about how they’re looking at cloud computing and other Web 2.0 technologies in order to better serve their customers.

FCB: How are you guys implementing [2.0] at the Food and Nutrition Service?

JA: If you want to think about something like cloud computing — I know it’s a buzz word and there’s going to be pros and there’s going to be cons and evangelists and whatnot, but I think it has a lot of potential. We can cut down on having to build these servers and create an infrastructure to run our applications if we can leverage something the department has or another organization has conceptually. It’s going to to make my job easier and it’s going to help me be less focused on operations, because we’re kind of outsourcing that factor.

We have actually a good story, I think, around a recent application in cloud computing. We recently added a cool function to our website where people that are interested can go to the FNS website and go to the SNAP page and then use a tool we’ve developed to find all the retailers in a particular zip code or near an address that takes those benefits.

It’s a pretty complicated GIS solution and there’s lots of data involved. Instead of building the infrastructure to run this, we’re running it in the Amazon cloud. We were able to put it up there very quickly. We didn’t have to procure the servers. We were just buying a service from Amazon and it seems to be working very well. I think it’s a good model that we might follow again or other agencies can follow to host a fairly complex solution in a pretty short order.

FCB: The interesting thing about this is it’s a public facing site. It has public data on it, so really your risk from a security standpoint is low.

JA: We would think that it would be pretty low, so it was a good candidate to be hosted in this cloud. We were very comfortable with that decision.

FCB: One of the biggest challenges for all agencies with cloud computing is that security. What do we put in the cloud? You saw, for instance, recovery.gov go to the cloud earlier this year, and there’s a lot to do, but it’s a public website. It’s all public data. . . . You don’t ever want to get hacked, but that plays into your decision, we imagine, to a certain extent.

JA: It certainly does. Again, the starts kind of have to align and I don’t think that cloud computing is going to solve every problem that every CIO has, but it’s a tool that I think we need to consider as we’re evaluating different solutions.

Hear more of this conversation on Ask the CIO on Federal News Radio.