Monday, January 26, 2009

Cumulus Defensus

Nine months or so ago I wondered who would be the first in global government to build a cloud or, better, to use a cloud provided by a third party. Turns out, and this is probably no surprise, that the first to the former is the US Department of Defense (or would that be Defence?).

From Bloomberg:

When the Defense Department’s John Garing met Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. to learn about cloud computing, he liked what he saw. Enough to send him back to Washington ready to change how government technology works.

Garing, who runs the Defense Department’s technology infrastructure, is now mimicking the companies’ approach internally, developing his own cloud that agencies share. Going beyond that to tap the resources of the corporate world may not be so easy. While using central data servers could save money and protect information from system failures, agencies are hesitant to give up control of sensitive information.

“If I were king for a day, I would say to Amazon and Salesforce, ‘Why don’t we just use your cloud?’” Garing said in an interview. “We are doing the nation’s business here, and the Defense Department can’t afford to go down in any way, shape or form.”

And perhaps very interestingly

The government spent about $68.1 billion in the last fiscal year on technology, with almost a third devoted to infrastructure, according to White House estimates. The portion spent on cloud computing will increase from a “a few percent” of the total this year, Cohen said.

I'd have a guess that $68 billion is about 3 to 3.5 times what UK government spends, at current exchange rates. And if a "few percent" is being spent on clouds (and rising, if I have that sentence right) then several tens of millions are being spent annually already - I wonder how many other governments could say that?

and here's evidence it might be working already:

Garing, whose Defense Information Systems Agency provides the internal network and computer processing for the military, took his inspiration from the corporate world when he developed his cloud for the department.

Military agencies can contract with DISA to rent storage space and to use its computers for processing information. In an October development test, a user in Falls Church, Virginia, logged onto the network, set up a Web site in seven minutes and paid for it with a credit card, Garing said.

“That has fundamentally changed the way we do business,” he said. “You virtually don’t have to buy another computer in the Defense Department because you can use our servers.”

2 comments:

  1. Cyril7:12 pm

    Agree with Dan on this one.s Not an easy sell to any Government Department these days especiallyswithout some really hard projections on how that will be recovered within a period of 5 years.s Maybe the Government DC strategy may drive some of this but who knows, that appears to be it's infancy at the mo.s
    s
    We can all easily agree on why and how it could be done but funding will be come an issue (except for those with deep pockets). Do youshappen to know any Alan?

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  2. James5:40 am

    Always enjoy reading your blog.
    You could say I do a bit of government work and would love to move it all to the cloud. It certainly would allow my staff to focus a bit more on what we can do with technology instead of constantly trying to keep it all running. I can't tell you how many times I wake up in the middle of the night looking to see if we have dropped the ball.
    One problem with state IT is that many agencies don't have the funds to create a fully redundant enterprise system. Through in with several other agencies is like herding cats and everyone has their own political agenda. It is really a mess.

    I have looked into Google Apps quite extensively and was happy to hear DC went that route. I have around 5% of my staff including me that are on our own Apps solution and they are happy. The big problem is how to backup their data for public records? We have to save things and if it is only in the control of the user there is no way to know they are not deleting records we may need later. I am sure if Google or another cloud fixes that we might get somewhere.

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