The Federal Cloud Innovation Center will connect agencies with experts in cloud computing, including software as a service, platform as a service, infrastructure as a service, and business process as a service. The experts range from IBM researchers to IT infrastructure architects to software developers. Consultants with agency-specific expertise will also be part of the staff.
The center will be headed by Jane Snowdon, IBM's chief innovation officer for U.S. Federal. Snowdon spent 17 years at IBM Research, and was appointed to the newly created position in June. She's tasked with developing strategies for government clients in emerging areas, such as big data, cloud computing and mobile.
[ What should agencies consider before they sign on with a cloud provider? Read Avoiding Cloud Lock-In. ]
Expanding adoption of open standards for cloud computing across the federal government is one of the center's main goals. IBM said it will use its knowledge of cloud standards and other open protocols to help agencies quickly and securely deploy open technologies in their cloud environments.
Last year IBM became a member of the OpenStack Foundation, which promotes the development, distribution and implementation of the OpenStack cloud operating system. OpenStack is a cloud computing project for service providers, enterprises, academia and federal agencies that want to build public or private clouds.
"As agencies look to the cloud for IT cost savings and innovation, the Federal Cloud Innovation Center will help government agencies explore and understand why adopting open standards for cloud computing is the right path to meeting this goal," Anne Altman, general manager of IBM U.S. Federal, said in an email. "We believe that agencies that choose cloud vendors that take a propriety approach to technology risk building dead-end clouds and will not be able to keep pace with new features and the innovation emerging continually from open source cloud solutions."
The center will also work with agencies on security innovations such as new methods for data encryption in the cloud, according to IBM. Additionally, agencies will have access to IBM's portfolio of 3,600 cloud APIs for integration and hardware configurations. These APIs allow faster customization of cloud services to the agencies' specific needs, the company said.
Other resources to be offered by IBM at the Federal Cloud Innovation Center include SmartCloud for Government, a cloud environment that complies with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and is part of IBM's federal data centers. The General Services Administration (GSA) recently signed a deal with IBM to implement SmartCloud for Government. Under the five-year, $30 million contract, IBM will provide GSA with a cloud infrastructure for a new order management system and advanced analytics.
IBM is also among 10 companies that have signed indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts with the Department of the Interior (DOI), valued up to $1 billion each. DOI plans to migrate its IT operations to the cloud, which, according to experts, could set the agency on a path toward becoming a major government cloud service provider.