Despite “cloud-first” impetus, government cloud adoption is still creeping along

Since the Obama administration launched its cloud-first initiative for government agencies in 2011, legacy IT providers as well as cloud-first players have scrambled to get the required certifications and authorizations to compete for multiple billions of dollars worth of government spending.

And most of them — Amazon Web Services(s amzn), IBM(s ibm), Microsoft, HP, et al — have gotten Federal Risk and Authorization Program (FedRAMP) certifications, which in theory will make it easier for federal agencies to assess and contract to use their cloud technologies. (Here is a full General Services Administration list of FedRAMP-certified cloud service providers or CSPs.)

The influx of all these guys has made life more interesting for the government-certified providers already in that space.

The arrival of these companies — plus Google, which does not have FedRAMP certification but has been pushing Google (s goog) Apps for Government — into this very field may make life more complicated for traditional federal IT contractors who have bid on IT projects for decades. Lockheed-Martin CEO  Marillyn Hewson acknowledged this in an interview with Federal Times. Her point is that Lockheed-Martin has the domain expertise required to keep it very competitive in big government accounts.

And while, cloud-first rules the day, actual cloud adoption is still creeping along. An Accenture survey of 286 federal executives  released in February showed that many agencies lacked staff to evaluate cloud options and cited the still overly-long procurement process as hurdles to cloud adoption.

According to Accenture:

More than two thirds of respondents said their agencies lack the necessary skilled staff to execute its cloud strategy and 31 percent said they would need to hire at least one new employee. About half of survey respondents (45 percent) said training is necessary to develop those skills, estimating that cost between $25,000 and $50,000.


Another factor hindering adoption could be fear of cloud provider sprawl, according to CIO magazine. Gerald Chelak, director of technical service for the  GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies told CIO that government agencies’ IT staffs  are worried about having to manage lots of cloud instances across infrastructure, software application and development platforms.

Chelak said the current manual processes for moving projects from development to production makes for slow going but that the emergence of more automated tools for managing deployment, government, cost and chargebacks for different CSPs via a single portal will address many of these issues.

Also, people are starting to realize that cloud adoption does not necessarily mean an end to shelfware — in which companies end up buying a lot of software they don’t need and don’t use.

The Structure Show

Foundry Group's Brad Feld

Foundry Group’s Brad Feld

Religious zealots notwithstanding, it’s by no means clear that startup companies born-and-bred on Amazon Web Services, will stick with that cloud forever. This week’s Structure Show guest Brad Feld, managing director of  the Foundry Group and co-founder of TechStars talks with a ton of startups all the time and lays out where AWS is vulnerable not just to other cloud providers but to in-house deployment. It’s a good one so check it out. Feld starts at about minute 11.

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