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6/12/2009
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General Services Administration's CIO Looks To The Cloud

Casey Coleman reveals the GSA's role in driving a government-wide cloud computing initiative and other IT priorities.

The U.S. General Services Administration finds itself in the midst of a number of major shifts in terms of delivering information technology, one of the foremost of which is cloud computing.

Meanwhile, the GSA also has some IT initiatives of its own underway, like energy efficiency and telework. InformationWeek recently chatted with GSA CIO Casey Coleman about GSA's role in driving a government-wide cloud computing initiative and about GSA's own IT priorities.

InformationWeek: What role can GSA play in helping the government accelerate its use of cloud computing and in helping to drive the government's cloud initiatives?

Coleman: GSA is a partner with industry providers to put them under contract with terms and conditions that can be tapped into by other agencies.

InformationWeek: Does that just mean driving schedule changes, does that mean helping those vendors put in bids for contracts, or does it mean something more?

Coleman: It certainly means those items you mentioned. One of the things that appears to be of interest is for GSA to take some of the friction out of the processes that agencies must follow and speed up their ability to obtain solutions from GSA. So, for example, let's say have a Web site and you don't have ready-made capacity, so you need infrastructure as a service, you would typically have to prepare a statement of work and go through some kind of source selection, do an acquisition, make an award, conduct a FISMA [Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002] certification and accreditation, and continually monitor that environment, and you would have to replicate those functions every time more Web hosting is needed. If GSA were to provide infrastructure as a service and we pre-compete the vendors so that those vendors can compete only on price or on customer satisfaction for past service and if we do this business certification and accreditation, then an agency in minutes or hours could have hosting capabilities available.

InformationWeek: Is there room for the GSA to be more of a shared services environment?

Coleman: We do some of that. We have shared services such as the HSPD-12 [Homeland Security Presidential Directive] smart card badges. Agencies don't have to re-do the technical assessments and so forth. I think that's an area where GSA could do more and it will depend on the goals of the administration.

InformationWeek: So there may, with that caveat, be a role there for cloud computing?

Coleman: I think that is an area where we could deliver. That's a leadership decision as to whether that's appropriate, but it's within the boundaries of what we can and have done in the past.

InformationWeek: What are you guys doing in terms of energy efficiency?

Coleman: What are we not doing? GSA's right in the middle of it. Two years ago, we consolidated all of our agency infrastructure, called GITGO, GSA IT Global Operations. We have turned off almost 500 servers that, through consolidation and virtualization were no longer needed.

GSA has a very robust telework program. We have over 40% of our workers teleworking and we have issued over 9,000 new laptops to enable our employees to work remotely. Those machines are over 25% more efficient than the ones that we replaced.

We've committed to eco-friendly recycling through our provider Intelligent Decisions. The ones that we didn't recycle we donate to schools, so we're trying to minimize the impact on landfills through recycling and reuse of equipment.

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