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Fed CIO Kundra Aims To Rationalize Budgets

In an interview, Vivek Kundra talks about cloud computing, an approach he will likely use to reduce costs and simplify government IT infrastructure.

Kundra gave all D.C. employees access to Google Apps for online collaboration, alongside Microsoft desktop tools. He exposed select District data online and offered a prize to the developer who created the most useful mashup app for it. And Kundra thinks jobs like hosting public-facing data that isn't sensitive look ripe for the cloud in federal government, as well.

One of his first acts as CIO was to bring together 11 CIOs to plan how the government could move toward cloud computing, including using free Web tools. "Why would we invest in infrastructure and technologies if they're available for free?" he said.

The plan will likely include "private clouds," using Internet-like architectures inside government data centers to save money, break the silos and information stovepipes that plague the bureaucracy by creating common IT infrastructure, and avoid the security concerns inherent in public cloud computing. "We've got to be able to abstract the infrastructure from the applications," Kundra said.

"For example, when you look at security, it's easier to secure when you concentrate things than when you distribute [them] across the government. We can pool our resources together, and you're able to specialize in the content that needs to be there."

Kundra's relationship with agency CIOs will be one of the most important factors influencing whether such efforts get adopted. While he technically can kill IT projects that don't pass muster, he's constrained by the budgets and mandates Congress passes, the public agendas coming out of agencies, and the fact that he's two steps removed from President Obama.

He also can't hire and fire agency CIOs, who report to their agency heads as well as to him. Kundra has some strong ideas for transforming government IT practices. He'll need a lot more than data to turn them into reality.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report detailing the views of more than two dozen industry leaders on what should be top of mind for President Obama's CTO. Download the report here (registration required).

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