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9/14/2011
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NIST Releases Federal Cloud Roadmap, Architecture

Technology standards agency offers guidance on cloud standards and service categories allowed across government.

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The organization that creates technology standards for the federal government has released a new cloud computing roadmap and reference architecture as part of its continued efforts to help federal agencies adopt this technology model.

The documents provide guidance for agencies to help understand the standards they should use when deploying clouds, as well as the categories of cloud services that can be used across the government, according to the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).

The NIST Cloud Computing Standards Roadmap includes a standards inventory the organization will continue to update as more are created. The inventory covers standards for key features of deploying a cloud computing architecture, such as security, portability, and interoperability. It also identifies models and use cases that are relevant to cloud computing and identifies standardization priorities for the feds in the areas of security auditing and compliance, and identity and access management, according to NIST.

As the standards were developed, NIST also found gaps that still need to be covered in the areas of security and privacy protection, user interfaces, and business-oriented features, it said.

The guiding principles were used to create the NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture, a vendor-neutral design meant to serve as a guideline for agencies, not to be followed specifically, according to NIST.

The architecture is based on a system of the so-called "actors" in a cloud architecture--consumer, provider, broker, auditor, and carrier--and defines the roles each play.

NIST hopes the industry will weigh in on the architecture and compare their cloud offerings with the one presented by the government, NIST Reference Architecture working group co-convener Robert Bohn said in a statement.

"The publication is also an opportunity for industry to map their reference architecture to the one NIST developed with input from all sectors," he said.

Federal agencies look to NIST to guide them on implementing technology and the standards to support it, and cloud computing is no exception. As the federal government increasingly adopts the cloud to cut costs and create new efficiencies, NIST has slowly been publishing documents to cover the various facets of cloud computing. It will incorporate these and the new documents in its comprehensive NIST U.S. Government Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap, which it expects to release in November.

NIST previously has released documents with security information for the cloud as well as a more complete set of overall guidelines.

In the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: As federal agencies close data centers, they must drive up utilization of their remaining systems. That requires a well-conceived virtualization strategy. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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