To address rising information technology costs, the government is making a major commitment to cloud computing, a move that aspires not only to cost and labor efficiencies, but also to environmental responsibility and openness to innovation.
In a speech at the NASA Ames Research Center in California on Tuesday, federal CIO Vivek Kundra said that the government cannot continue to invest in traditional data centers to support its IT needs, citing a doubling in the energy cost at federal data centers between 2000 and 2006.
Of the $76 billion the government spends annually on IT, $19 billion he said goes toward infrastructure maintenance. Government CIOs, he said, are more focused on deploying infrastructure and data centers rather than solving problems like education and healthcare.
Cloud computing, said Kundra, can simplify acquisition, budgeting, policy planning, and architecture. And to help that happen, he announced the launch of Apps.gov, a GSA-operated Web site that government agencies can use to buy and deploy cloud computing applications.
"Why should the government pay for and build infrastructure that is available for free?" he said. "In these tough economic times, the federal government must buy smarter."
Kundra acknowledged that the government's sensitive and secret data must continue to be maintained in government-owned, government-operated facilities. However, he stressed that free and low-cost consumer-oriented services can and should be leveraged by the government.
He cited the TSA's plan to deploy a blog, which was budgeted at $600,000 despite the fact that consumers can deploy blogs for free.
"If in our lives we can go online and provision e-mail in a matter of minutes...why must the government spend billions and billions of dollars on information that's not sensitive?" he asked.
In a blog post, Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, a major provider of cloud infrastructure services, welcomed the government's commitment to cloud computing and echoed Kundra's claims about cost savings. Not only will cloud computing allow the government to focus on delivering value rather than managing infrastructure, he said, but the cost savings will benefit the public sector and allow government agencies to bring programs to market faster than ever before.
Kundra, in a blog post, concedes there are still security, privacy, and information management issues to be addressed. But he claims that these issues will be resolved eventually.
"Along the way, we will need to address various issues related to security, privacy, information management and procurement to expand our cloud computing services," he said. "Over time, as we work through these concerns and offer more services through Apps.gov, federal agencies will be able to get the capabilities they need to fulfill their missions at lower cost, faster, and ultimately, in a more sustainable manner."
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