Cloud Momentum Building in D.C.

The federal government’s adoption of cloud computing is a lot like a boulder resting on a hill. It takes some work to get it moving, but once it starts, momentum makes stopping it a seemingly impossible task. This week should serve as a fair warning that it’s about to start rolling.

On Monday, word spread of a budget overview document that lays out the government’s plan to start cloud computing pilot projects. Most impressive are the forward-looking proposed use cases for cloud. Aside from achieving more efficient data centers, the government hopes to improve productivity and service delivery to citizens by using the cloud for things like portals, collaboration, telepresence and records management. It also is looking at social media and Web 2.0 technologies to engage and connect with the citizenry.

On Wednesday, the cloud initiative gathered even more momentum when the GSA released its Request for Information (RFI) for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings. As Enomaly’s Reuven Cohen points out, a very interesting aspect of the RFI is its focus on interoperability. Sometimes it takes the prospect of large sales contracts — the kind generally given by federal agencies, for example — to catalyze action. Developments like the DMTF cloud interoperability group and the Open Cloud Manifesto were good first steps, but the government requiring interoperability by its vendors could give cloud-to-cloud communication the spark it needs to start running.

Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge suggests Terremark, HP, Google, Cisco and various systems integrators will be the big winners in the government cloud push. It’s tough to dispute these picks, as HP already plays a big role in the Department of Defense’s internal cloud test bed, RACE, and Terremark has been selected to host USA.gov. The budget overview focuses heavily on SaaS and collaboration, so Google and Cisco make perfect sense, too.

All of this might seem like a lot of progress in one week, but the truth is that the pressure on this boulder has been building for the better part of a year, and really ramped up as the new year kicked off. Team Obama has been pushing cloud since January, and the National Institute of Technology and Standards already has developed a highly regarded working definition of cloud computing (something not easily done in a market where everyone has his own ideas of what “cloud” means).

Question of the week

Is now the right time for the government to adopt cloud computing?
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