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Feds Face Cloud Procurement Confusion, Delays

Agencies eager to serve public 24/7 look for ways to procure cloud services faster than the usual 12 to 18 months, study finds.
Top 10 Government IT Innovators Of 2013
Top 10 Government IT Innovators Of 2013
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Nearly half (46%) of state and local government IT professionals in a new study said their jurisdiction has migrated -- or is planning to migrate -- applications to the cloud. However, state and local governments report that procuring cloud computing services remains a struggle, in part due to outmoded procurement processes.

Those are some of the conclusions reached by researchers at the Center for Digital Government in a new study released Tuesday. The survey found that more than a third of states (39%) that have migrated to the cloud, or are planning to, use shared-services agreements. Among those, 55% use statewide shared-services agreements. Fewer than 15% said they use procurement contracts for cloud services.

Asked what cloud environments they favor, 44% said they use or plan to adopt a hybrid cloud, involving a combination of public and private cloud hosting; 36% use or would choose a private cloud; 4% use or would use a public cloud; 14% didn't know.

[ Government agencies now have another cloud provider to consider in Microsoft. Read Microsoft Reveals Azure Cloud For Government Agencies. ]

The survey of 109 state and local IT decision makers, specified three principal reasons for cloud adoption:

-- They are looking for ways to reduce their hardware and software capital and maintenance costs.

-- They must meet the growing demands of a more mobile workforce and of citizens seeking 24/7 access to services.

-- They need to update aging legacy applications.

The findings were released in a report titled "Cloud Adoption and Procurement Practices," based on polling in July and August.

Crystal Cooper, VP for the U.S. public sector for Unisys, which supported the study, told InformationWeek Government that the 46% figure was much higher than expected.

"We've been hearing that the adoption of cloud has been a little slow," she said. "I was encouraged by the percentage of governments that are seeking cloud-type solutions and looking for ways to leverage the cloud in a manner to help them [solve] some of their business problems and challenges."

State IT officials "are leveraging the cloud to reduce the cost of hardware and software so they can redirect those [savings] into other areas of their organization," Cooper said. Also, "citizens are expecting to receive their services anytime, anywhere with their mobile devices and having the application reside in the cloud gives governments the [agility] to foresee capabilities and scale up and down."

Cooper added, "Governments are struggling with ways to procure services faster and the classic [request for proposals]-type of procurement vehicle takes between 12 and 18 months to procure a set of services. Emerging trend areas like cloud are new to them."

Researchers also noted that some state and local officials appear to lack understanding of cloud procurement and what is available to them. In fact, 36% said they didn't know what is available for procuring cloud services. Researchers noted that as cloud computing grows in popularity, the vendor market has become "increasingly confusing."

Respondents also put a premium on data security in the cloud, asserting that vendors should be able to demonstrate security protocols and assurances to state and local jurisdictions.

To be sure, most state and local decsionmakers -- 82% -- said security was "extremely important" when considering whether to adopt a cloud environment, and another 71% cited security concerns as the main barrier to cloud adoption.