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6/9/2009
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GSA Backs Away From Federal Cloud CTO Appointment

Cloud computing is still a major initiative of federal CIO Vivek Kundra, and its importance was even outlined in an addendum to the president's 2010 budget last month.

Less than a month and a half after coming out as federal cloud CTO, Patrick Stingley has returned to his role as CTO of the Bureau of Land Management, with the General Services Administration saying the creation of the new role came too early.

"It just wasn't the right time to have any formalized roles and responsibilities because this is still kind of in the analysis stage," GSA CIO Casey Coleman said in an interview today. "Once it becomes an ongoing initiative, it might be a suitable time to look at roles such as a federal cloud CTO, but it's just a little premature."

Cloud computing is a major initiative of federal CIO Vivek Kundra, and its importance was even outlined in an addendum to the president's 2010 budget last month. Kundra introduced Google Apps to city employees in his former role as CTO of Washington, D.C., and has said that he believes cloud computing could be one way to cut the federal IT budget.

While Stingley is no longer the formal federal cloud CTO, he has by no means turned his attention away from cloud computing. As of last Thursday, he was still scheduled to give a presentation titled "Development Of A Federal Cloud Computing Infrastructure" at the Geospatial Service-Oriented Architecture Best Practices Workshop on Tuesday morning, though as CTO of the BLM, not as a representative of the GSA.

The GSA isn't by any means taking its foot off the accelerator with cloud computing. However, Coleman wants to make sure it's done in the right way. "As we formalize the cloud computing initiative, we will have a program office, we will have a governance model," she said.

Despite the elimination -- for now -- of the federal cloud CTO role, Coleman said that it's "fair to say" that the GSA will be taking a central role in pushing the Obama administration's cloud computing initiative, noting that the GSA should be a "center of gravity" for federal government IT.

The GSA will undoubtedly move to make procurement of cloud services an easier task than it typically is today, both by working with vendors and overhauling procurement processes a bit. Today, "if you have a Web site and you need to host it and don't have a ready-made data center with capacity, 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 certification and accreditation, and continually monitor that environment, and basically you would have to replicate those functions every time more Web hosting is needed," Coleman said. "If GSA were to pre-compete the vendors who were capable of providing such a service, and if we do this business certification and accreditation at least at a broad level, then in minutes or hours you have hosting capabilities available to you."

The GSA is experimenting with cloud computing for its own internal use. For example, federal information Web site USA.gov is hosted via Terremark's Enterprise Cloud infrastructure as a service product, which charges by capacity used. When it was time for renegotiation of its old hosting contract, the GSA opened the contract to bidders and ended up saving between 80% and 90% with Terremark on a multiyear contract worth up to $135 million.

It's also possible that under the Obama administration, the GSA might begin playing more of a shared-services role in IT, as it does in building management. However, Coleman is coy about whether that's likely to happen, saying only that it would depend on the goals of the administration and the incoming GSA administrator. Stingley is reported to have been thinking about how the GSA might build out a federal cloud that agencies could easily tap into.


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