Thursday, May 14, 2009

White House mandate for Cloud Computing

The White House has released a budgeting document which includes a mandate for US Federal Govt usage of Cloud Computing. The document notes that "Businesses facing market pressures from which the Government is more insulated are forced to innovate, adopting emerging technologies with agility, to achieve maximum efficiency. Where appropriate, the Government needs to adopt innovations with the same agility."

I've added emphasis to some of documents recommendations on Cloud Computing:

Pilot projects will be implemented to offer an opportunity to utilize more fully
and broadly departmental and agency architectures to
identify enterprise-wide common services and solutions,
with a new emphasis on cloud-computing. The pilots will
test a variety of services and delivery modes, provisioning
approaches, options, and opportunities that cloud computing
brings to Federal Government. Additionally,
the multiple approaches will focus on measuring service,
cost, and performance; refining and scaling pilots to full
capabilities; and providing financial support to accelerate
migration. These projects should lead to significant savings,
achieved through basic changes in future Federal
information infrastructure investment strategies and
elimination of duplicative operations at the agency level.

Cloud-computing is a convenient, on-demand model for
network access to a shared pool of configurable computing
resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications,
services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with
minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
The cloud element of cloud-computing derives from
a metaphor used for the Internet, from the way it is often
depicted in computer network diagrams. Conceptually
it refers to a model of scalable, real-time, internet-based
information technology services and resources, satisfying
the computing needs of users, without the users incurring
the costs of maintaining the underlying infrastructure.
Examples in the private sector involve providing common
business applications online, which are accessed from a
web browser, with software and data stored on the “cloud”
provider’s servers.

Implementing a cloud-computing platform incurs different
risks than dedicated agency data centers. Risks
associated with the implementation of a new technology
service delivery model include policy changes, implementation
of dynamic applications, and securing the dynamic
environment. The mitigation plan for these risks depends
on establishing a proactive program management office to
implement industry best practices and government policies
in the management of any program. In addition, the
Federal community will need to actively put in place new
security measures which will allow dynamic application
use and information-sharing to be implemented in a secure
fashion. In order to achieve these goals, pilot programs will
provide a model for scaling across the Government.

It is good that the risks are being noted up-front. But, it seems to me like a "jump over to the cloud" approach - rather than identifying current government applications and surgically adding Cloud Computing components to them. For some of the pilots which the document mentions, I'd like to see examples of current applications which are made more "elastic" (adding capacity quickly) or more cost-effective through the usage of Cloud Computing. It can't be only "let's create pilot programs which are only Cloud-based". I've written about this model - combining traditional applications with the Cloud - here in this IBM DeveloperWorks article: Connecting to the cloud, Part 1: Leverage the cloud in applications (and Part 2 of the IBM DeveloperWorks series, which includes a sample application and source code). This is the kind of thing I'd like to see the govt doing.

And what about interoperability between Cloud platforms? "Imagine a federal mandate advocating cloud interoperability among any federal cloud vendors?" - Bob Marcus of the OMG, quoted by Reuven Cohen: