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FCCI Contractor Warns Of Cloud Pitfalls

Procurement and implementation, not the technology, will complicate government cloud deployment according to a Federal Cloud Computing Initiative contractor.

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Federal agency IT managers should think carefully before deploying cloud computing to avoid common pitfalls of moving to the infrastructure, warns a contractor working the federal government on cloud deployment.

Many people don't consider the fact that the cloud refers not to one technology but to a host of technologies and systems that must be deployed together, according to Michael Lee, a contractor working in the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative's program management office.

In doing so, he said, they often overlook issues that will arise with deploying the cloud that come up any time an organization is acquiring and moving to new technology.

"The truth is the complexity behind cloud isn't in the technology, it is and will be in the varied nature in which it will be procured and implemented throughout the federal government," Lee said. "In fact, many of the problems that will plague cloud are those that already affect existing IT acquisition and implementation."

The FCCI is aimed at making cloud computing services accessible and easy to procure and implement for federal agencies. The Executive Steering Committee (CCESC), reporting to the Federal CIO Council, oversees the initiative.

In December U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra instituted a cloud first policy, mandating that agencies consider a cloud-based solution for new IT projects. Since then agencies have been looking for the best and most cost-efficient ways to deploy the cloud, and officials have been offering their words of advice.

Earlier this week in a blog post, General Services Administration assistant commissioner Mary Davie tried to dispel myths about cloud computing to encourage agencies to make smart decisions about using the technology.

The very nature of technology acquisition poses a problem when looking at deploying a cloud infrastructure because "funds are allocated against projects, not missions," Lee said. This could cause a situation in which vendors offer cloud services to agencies whether they need them or not, muddying the decision-making process for deploying them.

Another danger is that with all of the different agencies eyeing cloud computing, the amount of disparity in the technologies and standards used to deploy them that will exist in several years could be similar to the current federal data-center problem, Lee said.

"At current count, the number of federal data centers stands at 2,049," he said. "So in five years, it's entirely possible we'll have over 400 private clouds in the federal government based on different standards and difficult to interoperate and integrate because different infrastructure, platforms, and software will have been deployed in each of them."

To avoid this problem, he advised agencies to make intelligent decisions when they deploy cloud computing, using it not on an ad hoc basis but in a standardized way across multiple projects.

While most see cloud computing as a way to take costs out of the network, there are hidden costs that could actually make things more expensive if not carefully considered before deployment, Lee said.

These include bandwidth and network management of off-premise clouds, the costs of educating and training staff not familiar with the new technologies and deployed; and the cost of developing and implementing new policies around cloud computing that didn't exist before.

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