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Federal Budget Lays Out Government Cloud Computing Plans

Despite up-front costs, the White House expects that rolling out government-wide common IT services will pay off in the long run.

The White House laid out broad plans for cloud computing in government in a supplement to the administration's proposed 2010 budget Monday, saying that the government "requires a fundamental re-examination of investments in technology infrastructure."

A section of the Analytical Perspectives document on Crosscutting Programs calls for a number of pilot projects that would help the government roll out government-wide common services, including some using cloud computing. According to the document, the government would use these tests to determine security and privacy requirements, develop standards, gather data, and benchmark costs and performance, but the pilots eventually will roll out more widely to federal agencies.

Though the document is short on the details, the pilot projects include desktop management such as remote help desk and secure provisioning, portals and collaboration, content and records management, workflow management, business intelligence, a general software-as-a-service pilot, as well as a data center pilot that calls for "government-to-government, government-to-contractor, and contractor-to-contractor modes of service delivery."

The document notes that cloud computing carries with it new risks and calls for strong program management in any cloud computing initiative. Particularly, the document points to security concerns about cloud computing and says the government will need to create security measures aimed specifically at cloud computing environments.

Both the cloud computing initiative and a related telework initiative will be supported by the federal Chief Information Officer Council and funded by the General Services Administration, according to the document. The GSA has even put in place a federal cloud CTO, Patrick Stingley. Despite some up-front costs, the White House expects cloud computing to pay off in kind. "Expected savings in the out-years, as more agencies reduce their costs of hosting systems in their own data centers, should be many times the original investment in this area," the document said.

New federal CIO Vivek Kundra has been a proponent of cloud computing in government since his days as the CIO of Washington, D.C., where he deployed Google Apps to all city employees. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has also weighed in, raising the idea of a federal cloud infrastructure and reportedly working on a draft government definition of cloud computing. Any big move to cloud computing by the government would be a multiyear initiative or set of initiatives, but it's clear that the top IT leadership in government is ready to go.

InformationWeek will be highlighting innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more, and nominate your organization -- deadline extended to May 15.

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