As the government moves to adopt cloud computing and considers limited use of free consumer services, Google is trying to address lingering concerns about security and control in the cloud.
In conjunction with federal CIO Vivek Kundra's launch of Apps.gov and declaration of support for cloud computing, Google on Tuesday said that it plans to create a government cloud to provide government agencies with access to Google services in an environment more suited to government security and policy requirements.
"The government cloud will come from Google-owned-and-operated facilities," said Google Enterprise director of product management Matthew Glotzbach, in a phone interview. "It will be sections of existing facilities. But it will be a fully parallel instance of Google Apps. The difference being we're working with the government to meet the specific needs of government data regulations."
For example, Google will maintain all government data within US-based facilities and security checks of Google data center employees will be done in conjunction with specific government agencies.
In his speech at NASA Ames Research Center on Tuesday, Kundra said that the government needed to adopt cloud computing solutions to cut costs, simplify acquisition and maintenance, and promote energy efficiency.
"Why should the government pay for and build infrastructure that is available for free?" he said. "In these tough economic times, the federal government must buy smarter."
At the same time, he acknowledged that the government still has security and data management issues to resolve as government agencies adopt cloud solutions.
Google's plan to build a protected cloud for government use represents an attempt to address some of those concerns.
The company is taking other steps along these lines, too. For instance, according to Glotzbach, Google is close to being accredited under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), which lays out government IT security requirements. Google began the certification process in July and plans to submit a final application to the government before the end of the year.
The government cloud that Google is building will allow the company to comply with government requirements beyond FISMA. Glotzbach said the project is expected to begin operating in 2010.
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