Next year's federal IT budget proposal encourages agencies to adopt cloud computing, calling it a "major part of the strategy to achieve efficient and effective IT."
Now, MeriTalk has released a free online tool that could help agencies take first steps toward thinking about how cloud computing might save them money. On Monday, the online community site introduced the Cloud Computing Savings Calculator, which allows federal agencies input a number of variables to determine whether moving existing systems to the cloud or deploying new services on the cloud would be worth it.
For example, the calculator for new programs (there's also one for existing programs) asks users to input the classification level of the information the new system, whether it will handle personally identifiable information, the types of applications used, the program budget, new infrastructure requirements and maintenance requirements, doing as many as 1,400 calculations to determine what savings might be.
For example, an agency or large IT effort involving a significant percentage of applications delivered on clients only would see fewer savings than one that is mostly server-based. Legacy, custom applications might cost a significant amount more to maintain than commercial off-the-shelf applications native to the cloud platform itself. The less sensitive an agency's data, the more of it that might be able to be migrated to the highest-return public cloud infrastructure.
As MeriTalk founder Steve O'Keeffe acknowledged, none of this is an exact science. However, it may serve to create decent guideposts. "What we're trying to do is provide a common framework for agencies to put in their information so that they can get a read, and from there start having a more meaningful dialog," O'Keeffe says.
The site isn't just a cloud-biased whitewash. There is a possibility that a calculation could wind up showing no cost savings at all. "Some environments are just not cloud-able, based on the sensitivity of the data and so on," O'Keeffe says.
The calculator is designed to be able to take in data that agencies already have about their systems, as the variables it asks users to input can be found on standard existing government forms, like the Office of Management and Budget's Exhibit 300 budget justifications.
In developing the Cloud Computing Savings Calculator, MeriTalk drew on help from industry leaders Google and IBM, government agencies including NASA and the Defense Information Systems Agency, and industry analyst firms such as IDC.