Cloud computing is becoming big now, because it is easy to see how this kind of computing can be beneficial to all different types of businesses. Because of the value of cloud computing, the federal government is considering moving much of their information technology workload to the "cloud." In other words, much of the information would be stored in a way that would make access to it - for intended parties - much easier and much faster. This could help with efficiency and reduce the need for a data center, but it is not without its concerns and difficulties. The 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology (Kundra, 2010) institutes a "Cloud First" policy to help accelerate and standardize the adoption of cloud computing solutions across the U.S. Federal government. It will be analyzed here in an effort to better understand what cloud computing can offer to the government and what possible concerns may also be raised by moving potentially vital and sensitive information away from current data servers and into the cloud.
Even though information technology (IT) is wildly popular and has increased productivity and efficiency significantly in the private sector, the federal government has not seen the same levels of productivity and efficiency, despite spending $600 billion over ten years (Kundra, 2010). Often, IT projects are over budget and behind schedule, despite the fact that the government has been focused on adopting best practices. Obstacles always seem to get in the way of what should (and can) be done (Kundra, 2010). In order to create the action plan, Kundra (2010) worked with academics, industry experts, and others. Detailed input and recommendations were provided from all individuals involved in the discussions, and that information was used in order to create the 25 point action plan. These points will not "fix" the issues, but they will help to move toward correcting the more pressing challenges the government is facing.
There are several things the 25 point plan is specifically designed to provide to the federal government. These include:
Data center reduction
Identifying and moving three services to the cloud in 18 months
Each one of those issues must be discussed, in order to get a better understanding of what the plan has to offer and the differences it will make when it comes to the federal government and how it handles its computing issues.
As for gaining efficiency, the mindset of the federal government must be shifted to a point where it stops focusing on building custom systems (Kundra, 2010). Custom is nice, but it also takes a long time and costs more money. Because of that, shared solutions and light technologies are what really should be adopted (Kundra, 2010). If these are adopted, the government will be much more likely to focus on the changes that need to be made, instead of spending too much time and money considering custom issues that are really not needed. There are so many options available in the cloud computing sector today that it is not necessary to get something customized, and that is true even with the government. Available options can generally be utilized, and it is not necessary to get custom systems too often anymore, despite the fact that the government will have demands that would not be the same as what would be seen in the private sector (Kundra, 2010).
The reduction of data centers is something else that is indicated by the plan. It will be possible to save a great deal of money by reducing data centers, and over five years that could mean a 50% reduction in the costs associated with IT in the federal government. When agencies focus on reducing their data centers, the price of taking care of business is drastically reduced, and that means that the money saved can be used for something else. By 2015, the plan is to consolidate at least 800 data centers (Kundra, 2010). Data assets have to be inventoried, and then consolidation plans need to be implemented so they can be integrated into the budget. Reducing overall technology costs can be done through the cloud, but it has to be done correctly. Simply putting things out on the cloud is not necessarily safe, and with the protection that government information needs, planning is required in order to make sure that everything is protected and treated correctly (Kundra, 2010).
Managers at the data centers will be the ones who will lead the efforts for consolidation, and a task force will be launched in order to make sure that everything is addressed properly. A government-wide marketplace for data center availability will be developed within 18 months, according to the plan (Kundra, 2010). Agencies that have extra capacity will be paired with agencies that have an increased demand, and that will allow both agencies to help one another, making the entire process more efficient. It is not always easy to make changes and create more efficiency, but with the cloud computing changes that will be taking place, efficiency will come in stages. That will allow for an adjustment period, making the entire process something that is easier for all agencies to adjust to. Many people forget that the federal government consists of quite a few agencies, instead of just one large entity. Because there are so many agencies, each one has to be converted over to the cloud. From that point, they all have to be integrated, instead of remaining separate. Working together can be beneficial, but it can also take time to complete integration.
By moving three services to the cloud in 18 months, that is a good start toward moving all of the services to the cloud eventually. Due to the size and scope of the government, large scale integration of the agencies into the cloud will take time (Kundra, 2010). Despite the fact that it cannot all be done at once, the government is committed to getting moving, because the fact that IT in the federal government is underutilized and badly lacking has been realized. Rather than focus on what still has to be done and become overwhelmed with all of it, the government has decided to focus on moving services a group at a time (Kundra, 2010). This makes much more sense, because systems have to be set up and everything has to be transferred over. Once that has taken place, each separate agency will have to be able to work with the other agencies and share information, so moving one agency at a time (or a group of them at a time) is much better when it comes to the management and accessibility that will still be needed for data (Kundra, 2010).
Management of portfolios and long-term planning are two of the other significant areas where cloud computing and the federal government are concerned. Using IT is something the government has done for years, but using it effectively is something the government is just now making part of its focus. The American taxpayers who are footing the bill for much of what the government does will want to see progress in the area of long-term planning, especially, because that indicates a possibility of future debt reduction. That is a hot topic at the moment, and something worth carefully considering when it comes to planning IT strategies for the government in general. If portfolios can be better managed and placed into the cloud so that data centers are reduced, combined, or eliminated, then long-range planning will be easier and more efficient (Kundra, 2010).
The efficiency of the government, on both short- and long-term levels, is slowed by waste in the system. In addition, information systems and technologies that are outdated undermine that efficiency and also threaten the…