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5/14/2009
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Federal Government Considering Cloud Computing

The GSA's request about "infrastructure as a service" includes 45 questions that may already eliminate some vendors.

In a sign that the government is looking to move quickly in its shift toward cloud computing, the General Services Administration has issued a request for information from infrastructure-as-a-service vendors, with a deadline of May 26.

The request for information shows a thorough early government approach to the topic of cloud computing, as it asks 45 questions of vendors that might respond and notes, as in many RFIs, in no uncertain terms that the information is for "data gathering and planning only." Particularly, the government wants to know about pricing, service-level agreements, operational procedures, data management, security, and interoperability.

According to a draft definition by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which will be heading up a government-wide cloud computing initiative, the government identifies infrastructure as a service as "the capability provided to the consumer to rent processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, deployed applications, and possibly select networking components (e.g., firewalls, load balancers)."

That would seem to rule out Microsoft Windows Azure and Google App Engine -- which fit more into the government definition of platform as a service -- from responding to this round of questions, but would include Amazon Web Services and a number of hosting companies such as Terremark.

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