Federal IT Reform Finds Success In The Cloud

Several projects that have implemented cloud computing are saving the government millions, according to U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra and other IT officials.
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Cloud computing so far has been one of the most successful strategies of an ambitious plan to reform IT projects and programs across the federal government, officials said Tuesday.

U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra; David McClure, the General Services Administration's (GSA) Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies associate administrator; and David Powner, the Government Accountability Office's director of information technology management issues testified before U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on Tuesday about progress being made on the government's 25-point IT reform plan unveiled in December.

Various cloud-computing implementations have a large part to do with the some of the cost savings and efficiencies achieved so far as the Obama administration seeks to eliminate wasteful IT spending, even as the administration faces challenges to reform in other areas, officials said.

Kundra unveiled the sweeping plan in December, a move that coincided with a "cloud first" policy that mandates agencies consider a cloud computing option first when planning new IT projects. Agencies also were asked to identify three systems they must move to the cloud as part of the plan, something they have all accomplished, he said Tuesday.

Cloud moves already accomplished have saved the federal government millions of dollars and will continue to achieve cost savings going forward, officials said.

Moving the federal government's official website to the cloud is saving the feds $1.7 million a year in computing costs, McClure said, and also created more workflow efficiency by allowing system administrators to provision changes to the site in hours as opposed to months.

Adopting the cloud also enabled him to use his staff in a more productive way, repurposing them to attend to "more mission-based and value-added services" than to use them to monitor and run infrastructure, he said.

Two agencies that moved to cloud-based email systems also are generating significant cost savings for the administration, Kundra said. The GSA and United States Department of Agriculture have saved $40 million by abandoning in-house email systems for hosted offerings.

The GSA was the first agency to embrace cloud-based email by migrating to Google's cloud-based e-mail and collaboration service from an in-house Lotus Notes-based system last December. Around the same time, the USDA said it was working to consolidate 21 different email systems to Microsoft's cloud-based services.

Other cloud computing-based benefits came from moves by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, Kundra said.

The former cut its costs by 60 percent by adopting a cloud-based application to manage spending, while the Recovery Board saved $750,000 by moving its website to Amazon Web Services' cloud-computing infrastructure last May.