Cloud computing has been on everyone’s lips the past couple of years, some believers touting it as a panacea to propel innovation and save money. The Obama administration, especially, has turned out to be its biggest fan. In September 2009, the federal government announced a long-term cloud computing policy intended to cut costs on infrastructure and reduce the environmental impact of government computing systems.
Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, who unveiled the project, hailed the cloud as a multiproblem solver:
“The cloud will do for government what the Internet did in the ’90s,” he told Nextgov in November 2009. “It’s a fundamental change to the way our government operates by moving to the cloud. Rather than owning the infrastructure, we can save millions.”
In essence, whereas public clouds exist outside an organization’s’ firewall in shared systems, private clouds are adopted within the corporate firewall, managed by internal IT departments. A private cloud has the same features and benefits of public clouds, but also provides control over enterprise and customer data, security concerns and issues connected to regulatory compliance.
For many businesses and federal agencies, private clouds have become an important strategic investment. Research conducted by InformationWeek in August revealed that agencies are more interested in developing private clouds and optimizing their data centers than in moving apps to a public cloud, which in many cases can slash costs.
Government contractors, such as Oracle, IBM and Lockheed Martin, have begun offering private cloud to federal agencies. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison unveiled his company’s entry into the private cloud environment in September, showcasing the Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Computerworld reported.
Even more recently, Lockheed Martin introduced the Starfire Mission Ready Cloud in November. Curt Aubley, vice president, NexGen Cyber Security & Innovation, Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions, said customers are looking for the benefits inherent in cloud computing without compromising compliance and security requirements.
“We believe that through partnering and innovation we have addressed these concerns within the secure Starfire solution,” he said.
IBM earlier this month launched a new Federal Community Cloud designed to help federal government organizations respond to technology requirements more swiftly. The secure, private cloud environment is part of IBM’s established and dedicated Federal Data Centers that provide secure and comprehensive certified computing capabilities to federal government customers.
David F. McQueeney, IBM chief technology officer, U.S. Federal, emphasized how the private cloud can help federal agencies save money, achieve their missions, and make steps toward innovation.
“The physical and virtual infrastructures of our federal clients can be monitored and managed more seamlessly using cloud models that ensure better security, standardization and automation driving lower costs,” he said. “Cloud computing environments will dramatically accelerate and enhance government agency missions, opening the door to better decision making based on real-time data and laying a strong foundation for greater focus on innovation.”
As private clouds become more common and expand into new domains, some critics express their concerns about security. The way current security services are provisioned and delivered will have to change, Gartner analysts said. Thomas Bittman, a Gartner vice president, pointed out that security must be integrated from the beginning and not “bolted on” later as organizations transition from virtual data centers to private clouds.