Government cloud computing has been the focus of several government reports and headlines, especially since the implementation of the cloud-first initiative in 2011. With many federal agencies gearing up for cloud migration, and many others still lagging behind, big changes are in the forecast for federal IT infrastructure. It is perhaps therefore fitting that Oct. 13, the cloud computing caucus announced three new co-chairs: Reps. Barbara Comstock, Ted Lieu and Mark Walker.
Government cloud migration is the end goal
The news comes at a time when more federal agencies are being encouraged to save money on federal IT infrastructure and create formal reinvestment plans for how these savings can cycle back into the budget. So far results have been mixed. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported savings of $3.6 billion recently, achieved in part by moving certain applications to the cloud.
This might sound significant, but the value represents about half of the Office of Management and Budget's goal, and the GAO reported that most of the agencies mandated to participate failed to submit complete reinvestment plans. Nevertheless, the government will continue to encourage agencies to cut spending for reinvestment through cloud adoption, and this is where the new co-chairs come in.
"Things are moving too slowly – and clearly The Hill is getting more interested in seeing progress," David Hantman, executive director of the cloud computing caucus advisory group, said. "We're delighted to welcome the new co-chairs, and look forward to a strong schedule of programs and initiatives."
The rocky road ahead for government cloud computing
In theory, moving applications and data to the cloud should help promote data center consolidation, and improve the sharing of certain resources between agencies. However, if current spending rates on cloud technology are any indication of the federal government's priorities, Comstock, Lieu and Walker have their work cut out for them.
At the moment, cloud computing represents approximately 1 percent of the annual $80 billion spent on federal IT infrastructure, according to Hantman. Furthermore, recent reports have shown less-than-glowing perceptions of cloud computing among government agencies. The results of a MeriTalk survey released early 2015 revealed that 75 percent of respondents fear a lack of control over their data, and 23 percent are distrustful of cloud vendors. This degree of wariness is not surprising, especially given the recent Office of Personnel Management breach, which, although unrelated to cloud computing, has stirred up its fair share of panic among feds.
A huge priority of the three new co-chairs will therefore be a renewed effort to improve perceptions of cloud computing among federal agencies. On Oct. 6, for example, the cloud computing caucus advisory group hosted an event titled "Beyond the Breach – A Secure Cloud Environment." More events such as this may help quell some of the anxiety over the security of cloud computing, while hopefully answering questions about the migration process, and highlighting the collaboration and cost benefits.
With time and a significant quantity of reassurance, assuming it's backed up by credible and impartial IT professionals, the cloud-first world envisioned in 2010 for the federal government may eventually come to fruition.