Will the Government Push Open Clouds Over the Goal Line?

TechAmerica’s Commission on the Leadership Opportunity in U.S. Deployment of the Cloud (CLOUD2) officially kicked off its three-month mission today to advise the Obama administration on cloud computing best practices, and pushing cloud interoperability is high on the commission’s list of goals. The TechAmerica Foundation is a technology trade organization aimed at educating policymakers about critical technology-related issues, and this commission aims to “make recommendations for how government should deploy cloud technologies and address policies that might hinder U.S. leadership of the cloud in the commercial space.”
I spoke with Citrix (s ctxs) Chief Security Strategist Kurt Roemer, who serves as one of CLOUD2’s 71 expert commissioners along with senior executives from large IT vendors and government contractors, after today’s kickoff meeting in Washington, D.C. He said there were many very interesting discussions today, covering everything from security to data privacy to General Services Administration schedules, but that data interoperability was among the most active.
The government’s plans for achieving this end entail a variety of possible approaches, including developing its own mechanism and releasing it to the public, or calling for industry-wide adoption of an open data standard that would be a prerequisite for federal business. Not surprisingly, Roemer said that OpenStack, the open-source cloud platform effort led by Rackspace, is helping to push the idea of interoperable clouds from fantasy to reality and “was very much mentioned” at today’s meeting.
Obviously, Congress most likely won’t seek to mandate open cloud computing through legislation, but it does have an IT budget in the neighborhood of $100 billion. From Google and Microsoft publicly spatting over FISMA certification to cloud providers cordoning off sections of servers for government use (sub req’d) we’ve already seen what cloud providers are willing to do to get a piece of that pie.
Since Barack Obama took office in 2009, U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra has been pushing for serious investments in cloud computing, although most attempts at real change have been met with mixed results. But policies such as the “cloud-first” policy, which mandates that agencies evaluate cloud-based options before making new IT investments, and a proposed $20 billion in 2011 to transition workloads to the cloud, illustrate how much potential money there is to be made when the cloud transition picks up steam.
I asked Roemer if there’s a concern that vendor representatives will try to push their own agendas throughout the CLOUD2 process to secure business down the line, but he said the presence of so many companies that might be vying for federal spending will help tamp down any grandstanding by one particular company.
Apart from advising the government on cloud computing best practices and policy, CLOUD2 also includes a commercial function that will share recommendations with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Commerce Under Secretary Pat Gallagher in an attempt to spur national innovation around cloud computing technologies. Roemer noted that U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra has a mantra that “the jobs will follow the clouds,” so the government is invested in ensuring that the United States business community is ready to embrace cloud computing and innovate around it.
In addition to the 71 commissioners, CLOUD2 has a six-person leadership team comprised of Salesforce.com (s crm) CEO Marc Benioff, Virtual Computing Environment CEO Michael Capellas, Microsoft (s msft) VP Dan Reed, CSC (s csc) President Jim Sheaffer, and leading researchers from Georgetown University and MIT.
Image courtesy of TechAmerica Foundation.