Use of IT Cloud Services in the Government
The efficiencies and scalability IT cloud services provide make it natural for federal, state, and local governments to pursue solutions in that area. Still, barriers exist that are slowing implementation. As such, government entities are trickling into the cloud arena at a time private use is exploding. Finding ways to remove or work around those barriers presents a key opportunity, both for government agencies and for cloud providers.
United States Cloud First Policy
In December 2010 Vivek Kundra, the U.S. Government CIO at the time, instituted a cloud first policy for U.S. government agencies. The policy requires all U.S. agencies to evaluate safe, secure cloud computing options before making any new IT investment. Kundra noted that almost $20 billion of the $80 billion the U.S. spends each year in IT costs could be moved into IT cloud services. Given the perception (and to some extent reality) of waste in government spending, this represents a significant step toward improving in that regard.
Barriers to Government Implementation of IT Cloud Services
Of course, the theory of moving to a more efficient model only goes so far. Many barriers impede the movement of government toward cloud services. At the most basic level, the government does not function as a centralized monolithic organization, but rather a collection of agencies that operate independently. Believing all can act of one accord, particularly when it means instituting a major operational change, is naïve at best.
Even on a one-off basis, government agencies have much to evaluate before entering into cloud services. Foremost, of course, is security. Given the different levels of sensitivity among agencies, careful examination of security concerns and how cloud providers address them takes time for even the leanest organization. Further, evaluations of a provider’s bandwidth and the appropriateness of its service offerings must occur. And regulations concerning open bidding for government service providers necessarily affect the process.
Finally, most government agencies will need to make personnel adjustments to secure the right expertise for managing cloud services. IT workers have never been interchangeable, and adding management capabilities to experience with cloud services will mean adding people to agency payrolls, and likely removing others who lack the knowledge the move requires. Each of these steps becomes more onerous in a government setting.
What Lies Ahead for Government IT Cloud Services
These barriers will not prevent government agencies from moving more heavily into the cloud services arena. The process will include adjustments and growth by the government agencies as well as service providers themselves. Nevertheless, strained budgets at all levels of government, as well as increasing transparency in the budget process, render development and growth into the cloud inevitable.
This represents a huge growth area for cloud service providers. By gaining a foothold in government work, these providers can expand their business exponentially, and help the government gain traction in the ceaseless fight against runaway budgets.