Federal adoption of cloud computing

Jan 29, 2015

Government agencies can sometimes be slow to adopt new technologies, preferring to wait until they have become more established and tested.

This holds true for the US federal agencies and cloud technology. They have previously cited security concerns, affordability and reliability among other factors, but that could be set to change.


As cloud sees an increasing market share in other industries,  some are still reluctant to take the plunge. As far back as 2011 there have been calls for federal agencies to consider cloud technologies. The Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, also known as "Cloud First" was initiated by former federal CEO Vivek Kundra in February of that year. The program mandated that all federal agencies should evaluate cloud services when considering new IT investments, but tighter budgets and security concerns have hampered progress.

The Cloud First program sits well with other initiatives put forward by the Obama administration to revamp data centres and keep IT infrastructure within up federal agencies up to date. The goal of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative is to shut down at least 1000 facilities by the end of 2015. Total energy, administrative and associated savings brought about by these changes could slash billions of dollars from the IT budget.

Cloud compliments these cost-cutting efforts nicely, as self service functions accelerate the provisioning of IT services. Federal agency IT teams can spend less time allocating resources, in turn improving efficiency across the board and cutting costs.

After four years, the Cloud First program has so far failed to usher in a new era for federal IT, with fewer than 5 percent of federal agency applications being cloud based.

Change comes slowly in politics, and federal agencies are no different. Requirements are more stringent for approval of new processes and technologies. Cloud vendors are overwhelmingly focused on the domestic and general business markets and as such do not offer much of the functionality needed by federal agencies.

Other barriers preventing cloud from seeing widespread adoption in federal agencies is a lack of experience. Deployment of cloud applications requires detailed knowledge of cloud API and virtualisation. It is simply easier to stick to the old ways. Money is not currently available for training, even if implementing these technologies would save money in the long run.

Security is another huge factor for federal agencies, understandably. Ensuring data remains confidential as absolutely paramount. Recent breaches, although mostly down to human error rather than exploits in the technology itself, have not helped the perception of cloud security.

Change is coming though, it is just a matter of "when" rather than "if". Big cloud providers are continuously working on improving services, particularly where security and ease of adoption are concerned. This will go some way to making the switch easier for governments around the world.

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