Real Government Cloud Computing Efforts

What’s really going on with cloud computing in government? That’s been the key question for both public and private sector technology and security leaders over the past few years. Other perplexing issues include: Are the savings real? How can we accelerator cloud adoption in secure ways? What’s holding back decision-makers from more aggressively using available cloud services? What’s working and what’s not? And, perhaps most important, what success stories point the way for others to overcome obstacles and get in the cloud?

 What’s really going on with cloud computing in government? 

That’s been the key question for both public and private sector technology and security leaders over the past few years. Other perplexing issues include: Are the savings real? How can we accelerator cloud adoption in secure ways?  What’s holding back decision-makers from more aggressively using available cloud services? What’s working and what’s not? And, perhaps most important, what success stories point the way for others to overcome obstacles and get in the cloud? 

These topics and more are covered in the just released report: The Cloud Imperative: Better Collaboration, Better Service, Better Cost by the TechAmerica Foundation. The full report and the executive summary can be downloaded for free at this new website for TechAmerica Foundation’s State & Local Government Cloud Commission.

Why do I start by highlighting this report? This blog from Jacqueline Vanacek in Forbes answers that question by starting with her top 10 state/local government cloud examples and going on to describe the commission’s important findings:

“…Cloud services can transform government services – of any type – from any agency – in any jurisdiction. We saw that repeatedly in our work on the TechAmerica US Cloud Commission for State-Local Government (SLG-CC).

As SAP’s Commissioner and SLG-CC chair of the Business Impact team, I met many SLG thought leaders who are pushing the envelope to drive unique cloud opportunities under the most challenging circumstances.

Above are just a few of their stories, and more can be found on the SLG-CC Community Portal. The role of the Commission’s combined industry/government membership was to develop recommendations for driving adoption of cloud computing in SLG, and offer a roadmap with proof points from those who have succeeded and are leading the way.

For these public sector cloud pioneers, it’s not just a matter of wanting to be innovative.  They are compelled to be innovative, because of ongoing budget pressures and the need to do more with less, especially in an election year….”

The SLG-CC has received plenty of positive press over the past few weeks. Here are some examples of the coverage:

Info Boom: Governments Warming up to Cloud Computing

Excerpt:

“…As more and more businesses of all sizes make the transition to the cloud, many state and local governments have been falling behind by holding onto legacy concepts about what computing should be. The TechAmerica Foundation, seeing the missed potential, put together a commission made up of 28 technology companies and a dozen government agents to detail how smaller governments could adopt the cloud….”

eWeek: TechAmerica Releases Best-Practices Report for Government Cloud Adoption 

Excerpt: "We've got to wake up. The problem is all these legacy systems. If we could start over, we'd be fine. But we're stuck with all these old contracts." -- California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Government agencies at the federal and state levels talk a good game about wanting to refresh legacy data center systems by moving as many of them to cloud services as possible. Instantly realized cost-savings, ease of use and increased data safety and workload effectiveness are all factors that can't be denied anymore. 

 Government Technology Magazine:  Cloud Commission Advises State and Local Governments to Evaluate, Collaborate

Excerpt: “For state and local government agencies, cloud computing is no longer a choice — it has become an “imperative” the public sector must carry out, according to a new recommendations released Thursday, Feb. 15 by an advisory commission.

At a press conference held on a Microsoft campus, the panel of technology executives, and state and local government IT officials discussed the state of cloud computing deployment in the public sector and addressed the challenges to moving agencies and departments into a cloud environment….”  

Back in 2010- 2011, the TechAmerica Foundation released the results of another Cloud Commission entitled: Cloud First, Cloud Fast: Recommendations for Innovation, Leadership and Job Creation.  

That Commission’s report: “… Focused on 14 specific recommendations, categorized into four thematic areas: Trust, Transnational Data Flows, Transparency, and Transformation. For each recommendation, the report identifies why the action is needed, how it should be implemented, who should implement it, and what benefits should be expected from implementation. The Commission intentionally made these recommendations direct and prescriptive….”

Other Cloud Opinions

But lest you think this is a commercial message for TechAmerica or just a summary of what vendors want us to hear, there are plenty of other sources on the same topic. For example, in January 2012, IDC issued a report predicting that regional cloud hubs will significantly change the way that state and local government procure online services.  

Here’s  a section of the IDC predictions:

As a result, this evolution has the potential to trigger the following game-changing consequences:

-- For the host facility, it can turn a government agency cost center into a revenue center. By selling cloud solutions to other government organizations, host agencies can offset their own IT costs.

-- Local governments can buy cheaper cloud solutions than they might find on their own and they may be able to reduce capital expenditures and overhead costs.

-- Cloud services will replace internal client/server systems as the main model for government application delivery. The race is on to build shared regional datacenters and the largest portfolios of government solutions.”

Another example comes from the “Cloud Best Practices Network” with their web portal called Govcloud.info. This website offers numerous stories from around the world, case studies, profiles on available services, links to best practices and more.  

Wrap-up Q/A on the Cloud

Over the past two months, I’ve received numerous questions and interview requests regarding governments in the cloud. Here’s a summary of some of those interactions:

Am I all-in regarding the cloud? Not quite. But I do think the ship has sailed and I agree with the recommendations in the report. This is a very helpful report and impressive overall vendor agnostic effort. Tough questions are answered and not glossed over. 

Is there still a level of hype in these reports and cloud marketing schemes? Yes, in some cases. But again, governments do need to get onboard ASAP and start small and grow their efforts – probably in a private or hybrid cloud first. The future is in the cloud computing space, along with mobile (smartphones) and the security therein. 

Was I a member of the Government Advisory Board for TechAmerica Foundation’s State & Local Government Cloud Commission? Yes. It was a good experience, and the pros who worked on this commission were top-rate.

Are security issues addressed in the report? Yes, there is a big section on cloud security, privacy and contracting as well as other very important cloud computing topics for government adoption.

What do I disagree with in the report? I like the report and the process that was undertaken. I think TechAmerica and the commissioners did an excellent job overall. I especially like the ongoing aspect of this effort in the creation of a “living” web portal that will be updated.

Two things that I would have changed included the decision to remove of a lot of detail from the final report in order to make it smaller and easier to digest for readers. The marketing people thought there was too much information and it was too long, so many items were pulled out and put into the website. This weakens some parts in my view.

The other item was the decision to create another separate web portal and not use an existing state and local government community portal, like NASCIOs portal (or another portal). A problem that I see emerging in the industry is that everyone is creating a new place to go to hang out online, ask questions, interact, read libraries, etc.

The issue is that we are creating place to go faster that we can join them, and no one can “engage” in 17+ portal communities effectively. Most people pick 2-3 in their area of expertise at most, in addition to say Facebook and LinkedIn.  When you add up the Gartner, Forrester, numerous magazine “insider” portals, association portals, blogs, vlogs, conference follow-up portals, work (Intranet) portals and dozens of other specific portals and websites – it can become overwhelming. Only time will tell if so many portals can succeed. I suspect not.

Note: I do see a new business opportunity here to create a “trusted” portal aggregator – kind of a “Mother of all portals.” We do need trustworthy places to interact online and engage others, but I can’t get my job done and go everywhere. I suspect the ones that will survive will have a strong hook into the real world.  

Anyway, the Commission’s report is worth reading. Take some time on the website and you will learn quite a bit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the TechAmerica Cloud Commission’s findings.

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