Governments weigh the pros and cons of private clouds

Cloud computing is a tough sell to governments because of privacy and security concerns. Private clouds could make the difference.

Government organizations considering a move to cloud computing face a series of decisions, perhaps the biggest of which is whether to use a public cloud or develop a private one.

The idea of a private cloud would seem to undercut some of the chief advantages of the model, in particular shared expense and offloading management chores to an outside organization.

"The use of privately operated large-scale virtualisation avoids the legal challenge of hosting government data and applications in other legal systems and under unknown security environments," said Cedric Huesler, director of product marketing at Day Software, in an article at "On the other hand, the trend of citizen-driven innovation in public services, thanks to open government data, favours the public cloud, especially with its potential to reach a wider audience and enable simpler sharing."

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Huesler spoke at the Government Cloud Forum, held in November 2009 in Singapore. FurtureGov's coverage included an assessment by its own editor-at-large, Laurence Millar: "As prudent public servants with a careful eye on risk management, delegates were interested in the areas to look out for," Millar said in the article. "The two major areas that were of most interest were transition risks and data issues - data security, confidentiality, lock-in, legislative and other regulatory requirements, control and liability. Governments that demonstrate leadership in responding to these challenges will be the future winners."

Blogger James Brown, who describes himself as a government technology strategist on his blog, "The Other James Brown," reported that the Japenese government is developing a private cloud.

"This is what I believe that most governments will be looking at for the majority of their cloud needs," Brown wrote. "The risk of moving to a pubic clouds outweighs the cost benefit. However, if we can provide services to governments though private clouds we can gain many of the benefits but allow them to control the mitigation of risk.

"However, please don't believe for a moment that this is an easy sell," he added. "The decision making process in government is complex and political...Unless we can come up with a compelling business proposition for governments (which is different from a compelling commercial business proposition which most cloud services are targeting) then they will continue to buy services that they can install and control locally."