Up in the Cloud – The Promise of Cloud Computing

Originally posted to GovLoop

This post is part of GovLoop’s ongoing blog series around one of our latest resources, Navigating the Digital Government Roadmap. In the guide, the most pressing technology trends are identified. The guide is intended to provide a broad spectrum of government technology. Our blog series will dive deeper into each section, so be sure to jump in with your experiences, and take a look at the guide. Also, be sure to check out our infographic: The Digital Government Strategy Timeline.

Cloud computing continues to be one of the key trends in government. Since 2009, President Obama’s Administration has been encouraging federal agencies to adopt cloud technologies through the Federal Government’s Cloud Computing Initiative. With this initiative, the Obama Administration hopes that by leveraging cloud computing, agencies can work to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and cut costs for the federal government. With the adoption of cloud computing, government at all levels has found new efficiencies.

Ajay Budhraja, CTO at a US Government Agency, recently wrote on GovLoop:

Cloud has dramatically changed how we think about and utilize services. Cloud facilitates rapid deployments due to quick availability of scalable services. It provides the high service velocity to manage changes incrementally and less time for provisioning storage and applications. Cloud can enhance productivity by providing the infrastructure or application platforms and related tools to respond to customer needs faster, giving organizations an edge over others that have not assessed such mechanisms. In addition, the on-demand capabilities can lead to efficient utilization of resources. I have seen applications that traditionally would take months to deploy, being rolled out in several weeks due to the Cloud and new environments being set up very quickly , the key is to carefully assess existing capabilities and focus on service and process integration.

The first step to broader cloud adoption is a general awareness of what kind of service model to select, and what fits your needs as an agency. With cloud computing, there are three different kinds of service models. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-service (SaaS). The GAO report provides a nice, quick and easy description of the different service models, which was provided to the GAO by NIST:

               

  • Infrastructure as a service—the service provider delivers and manages the basic computing infrastructure of servers, software, storage, and network equipment upon which a platform (i.e., operating system and programming tools and services) to develop and execute applications can be developed by the consumer.

                   

  • Platform as a service—the service provider delivers and manages the underlying infrastructure (i.e., servers, software, storage, and network equipment), as well as the platform (i.e., operating system, and programming tools and services) upon which the consumer can create applications using programming tools supported by the service provider or other sources.

                   

  • Software as a service—the service provider delivers one or more applications and the computational resources and underlying infrastructure to run them for use on demand as a turnkey service.

The report by GAO provides a great summary of the background of cloud computing in government and the current challegnes faced by agencies. The report also identifies the progress of seven agencies compliance with the “Cloud First” strategy. The report states the following seven challenges and also provides the chart below showing progress by agencies:

  1. Meeting Federal Security Requirements
  2. Obtaining guidance
  3. Acquiring knowledge and expertise
  4. Certifying and accrediting vendors
  5. Ensuring data portability and interoperability
  6. Overcoming cultural barriers
  7. Procuring services on a consumption (on-demand) basis

 

 


With the implementation of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), cloud adoption will hopefully continue to be embraced by government, and work to remove some of the common challenges faced by government employees while adopting cloud technology. FedRAMP is a governmentwide program that helps government agencies implement cloud based technology. At the core of FedRAMP is providing government officials with a standardized approach to security, authorization and monitoring of cloud-based services.

With the implementation of FedRAMP, governmentwide acquisition of cloud technology is expected to increase. With FedRAMP, cloud service providers will have to use a third party to verify the company meets basic security requirements. FedRAMP is an extension of the Obama Administration’s “Cloud First” strategy, detailed by the memorandum released on December 8th, 2011.

FedRAMP.gov states the following program goals:

  • Accelerate the adoption of secure cloud solutions through reuse of assessments and authorizations
  • Increase confidence in security of cloud solutions
  • Achieve consistent security authorizations using a baseline set of agreed upon standards to be used for Cloud product approval in or outside of FedRAMP
  • Ensure consistent application of existing security practices
  • Increase confidence in security assessments
  • Increase automation and near real-time data for continuous monitoring

FedRAMP.gov states the following program benefits:

  • Increases re-use of existing security assessments across agencies
  • Saves significant cost, time and resources – “do once, use many times”
  • Improves real-time security visibility
  • Provides a uniform approach to risk-based management
  • Enhances transparency between government and cloud service providers (CSPs)
  • Improves the trustworthiness, reliability, consistency, and quality of the Federal security authorization process

Cloud computing, in tandem with other technologies like mobile devices, is a game-changer for government. The promise of cutting cost and working through fiscal austerity is appealing to all in government. The cloud is part of the solution, leveraging cloud technology can help agencies cut cost, increase productivity and assist in cross-agency collaboration. With positive findings from the GAO report, and case studies throughout government, so far cloud technology is living up to the promises and still holds a lot of potential for government agencies.

 

Please view Navigating the Digital Government Roadmap Guide below, or click here to download. Be sure to also visit the guides homepage for more blog posts and tech related resources. With questions about the guide, please feel free to email me at pat@govloop.com. Thanks!

This page is brought to you by the GovLoop Technology Solutions Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Technology Solutions Council to learn more.

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