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8/3/2009
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GSA Outlines U.S. Government's Cloud Computing Requirements

A newly issued RFQ details what's expected from cloud computing vendors in terms of security, SLAs, geographic location, and data ownership.

The General Services Administration has issued a Request For Quotation for cloud storage, Web hosting, and virtual machine services. The document is a preliminary step toward an online "storefront" to be used by federal agencies for ordering cloud computing services.

The RFQ includes ground rules for being a cloud service provider to the U.S. government. Federal agencies will retain ownership of data and applications hosted online, and they can request full copies of data or apps at any time. In addition, cloud services are to be multi-tenant in architecture, be able to be provisioned securely and remotely, scale elastically, reside within the continental United States, and provide visibility into resource usage.

According to the RFQ, cloud service level agreements must provide for at least 99.95% availability, vendors have to take steps to secure their services, and trouble tickets and order management need to be able to be done via API. Virtual machine services must allow live migration of workloads from one VM to another, while Web hosting services require both Windows and Linux options.

The RFQ includes a graphic of the Federal Cloud Computing Framework, which breaks cloud computing into cloud services, user tools, and core foundational capabilities. Sub-categories are software-as-a-service, reporting and analytics, and functional categories such as e-mail and order management. The RFQ is available on Scribd.

The federal government is in the early stages of adopting private and public clouds as a way of making government IT more efficient. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has been a proponent of the cloud model, with support from the General Services Administration, the Cloud Computing Executive Steering Committee, and the Cloud Computing Advisory Council. Earlier this year, GSA issued a request for information for infrastructure as a service.

There's still confusion among government technology professionals about cloud computing. A recent MeriTalk survey found that "IT managers do not share a common understanding of the technology." Almost half say they are still learning about what cloud computing is and how it works, and predict that it will take two-and-a-half years to realize the benefits of cloud computing.


InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on leading-edge government IT -- and how the technology involved may end up inside your business. Download the report here (registration required).

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