Government-specific clouds a boon to feds, Kundra says

Google and Microsoft e-gov clouds a "huge opportunity"

The debut of Google and Microsoft cloud computing platforms tailored to government is an exciting development that could lead to more federal services being moved into the cloud, according to federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra.

Microsoft announced Feb. 24 that it is creating a dedicated government cloud computing service. That news came several months after Google announced it was launching a government-specific cloud.

“This is a huge opportunity to apply best practices from the private sector,” Kundra said at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Bethesda chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronic Association (AFCEA).

Related stories:

Microsoft to open government-only dedicated cloud facility

Google readies goverenment cloud offering

Federal agencies can look to cloud computing and other advanced technologies for new solutions in data storage, Web site hosting and e-mail, Kundra suggested. There are opportunities for consolidation of the federal government’s 1,100 data centers, 24,000 Web sites and its multiple e-mail programs, including 60 e-mail programs at one agency alone, Kundra said.

For data centers, which have increased in number from 400 in 1998 to 1,100 currently, the current path of growth is not acceptable or sustainable, Kundra said. Energy costs alone are prohibitive, he added.

“It is a huge problem,” Kundra said. “The path we are on does not make sense.

Kundra said Richard Spires, CIO at the Homeland Security Department, and Michael Duffy, CIO at Treasury, are leading a federal data center consolidation effort.

Their first task will be to take a complete inventory of all current data center infrastructure, including servers, networks and routers. In seeking possibilities for data center consolidation, cloud computing could be a solution, Kundra suggested.

“If you are running an application on 10 servers, and move it to cloud computing, what are the rewards of that?” Kundra said. He said the federal government is looking for “game-changing approaches” to deal with the problematic growth in data centers rather than “brute force consolidation.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Reader Comments

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 Kidsysco

To respond to the questions below about how the cloud would eliminate costs we need to take a good look at the native Terminal Services support of Windows Azure. If you look at large scale Terminal Services solutions the client PC is not really a PC. It uses a embedded version of Windows so that it does not eve contain a hard drive. There is no real way to update the system because the system is really dumb. It basicly only has enough resources to fire up a remote desktop session. The devices are very small, not nearly as vulnerable, they are VERY cheap to purchase and deploy. Right now it takes us about 4 to 6 weeks to deploy a new computers system in the Army. The man hours and wait time where we pay a new user to sit and do nothing for 4 to 6 weeks is a huge loss that could be quickly recovered on top of the recovery of dollars from using cheaper hardware.

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 Kidsysco

What is a Zero-Day Exploit?

When a developer becomes aware of a security hole, there is a race to close it before attackers discover it.

A "zero day" vulnerability occurs on or before the first or "zeroth" day of developer awareness, meaning the developer has not had any opportunity to distribute a security fix to users.

In the case of SAR10-5004 Zero-Day Exploit Affecting Internet Explorer 6 and 7, MS has still not released a patch for Internet Explorer 6 and 7 even though the bug is out there being used against people. MS has released updates that block some known attack vectors in IE 6 and 7 but the hole is actually not patched yet.

MS has identified that the best way to eliminate this bug from systems is to upgrade to IE 8 ASAP.

Take a look at your desktop computer, what version of Internet Explorer are you running now? All of ours are IE 7.

This greatly supports Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra's words when she stated that, "The path we are on does not make sense... cloud computing could be a solution"

Mon, Mar 1, 2010

Desktop in the cloud? That's great for when we humans have built-in WiFi and/or Ethernet connectors. Meanwhile, we're still using workstations to access our productivity applications, whether they're provided through a local workstation installation, or a local web browser delivering the applications from someone else's server over the Internet ("the cloud"). People have to choose to collaborate, regardless of the toolset. You're not eliminating any devices in this chain, so how are infrastructure costs decreasing? And finally, how do you deal with other relevant requirements such as data archiving and retention, as was mentioned by another respondent to your linked post? Cheers.

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 Brand Niemann

My suggestions is already at I would like to see us pilot having government employees “put their desktop in the cloud” as not only a way to save infrastructure costs and increase collaboration, but also a way to preserve the artifacts of their careeer so when they retire the people have a record! I asked NARA if they liked this suggestion and they said they had been thinking about the same idea. See

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