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Cloud Computing: 10 Questions For Federal CIO Vivek Kundra

Kundra discuss his thoughts about cloud computing in government, and what it would take to make cloud technologies easier to adopt in the federal space.

Kundra [cont.]: The key is to make that available to the federal government in a way that's easy and handles security up front in that you bake security requirements into the architecture. The goal is to make it as simple as, if you in your personal life wanted to sign up for an e-mail or photo-sharing platform or storage online, from the time you submit your credit card, the service will be provisioned real-time.

Why can't we do that with all agencies? Why can't we make sure we have infrastructure and platforms that are FISMA-certified [Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002] up front? Why can't we make sure procurement processes have been followed and provisioning issues around making sure we can provision these platforms real-time are addressed.

We're moving from this notion of 'here's a schedule' to the notion of 'here's a platform that can be provisioned real-time.' How do we provide those services? That's what we're working on. But it's about moving away from having schedules and this idea of GSA as an entity that has a bunch of schedules, but there's no center of gravity when it comes to information technology across the federal government. This allows us to create a center of gravity.

InformationWeek: So are you working with GSA closely to help them become that center of gravity?

Kundra: We're working very closely with GSA to be that center of gravity.

InformationWeek: What does that mean? What do you have to do with them, develop a new way for dealing with IT?

Kundra: That means one, looking at policy issues around information security. FISMA is a perfect example. Today, every agency has to get their own certification and accreditation even if they are using the same set of technologies. Imagine how much money we could save if we were able to have a central place where you could get certification and inherit those rights.

Second is actually creating a storefront that will be agency-facing, that agencies could, with the same ease that consumers do it, provision services.

Third is the underlying technology and rolling out platforms, making sure those platforms are scalable and elastic, so as agencies want to invest in technologies, they're able to do that and scale rapidly, rather than spending money on contracts where you're provisioning something where you're using only 10% of capacity.

InformationWeek: What about the internal cloud-like technologies? The Defense Information Systems Agency is building its own private cloud, for example. Does there need to be a centralized platform in government?

Kundra: The approach will be one that recognizes different requirements for various agencies. If the FAA needs to focus on a goal such as air traffic control across the country, that's very specific, versus if they're thinking about a platform for collaboration, which is a lowest common denominator. What is common across all different agencies?

Internally, we will be developing and launching a common platform so GSA becomes a center for providing these services, so you're not going around building platforms and replicating it in other data centers.

At the same time, we need to make sure we focus on open architecture. Open architecture is vital for information sharing, for collaboration down the line.

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