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Microsoft Offers Cloud-Based Public Data Hosting With Azure

The Open Government Data Initiative aims to help government agencies host public data on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud computing platform.
Last month, federal CIO Vivek Kundra, in an interview with InformationWeek, implied that he supported the use of public clouds to host and publish nonsensitive government data.

Amazon.com's Public Data Sets, announced late last year, allow the government and others to host public data on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud as Elastic Block Store components, and then integrate that data into Amazon-based applications as desired. Government agencies or other groups hosting that public data on Amazon could then use Amazon-based business intelligence or research tools to analyze those sets of data, paying for whatever compute and storage they require along the way.

Already, a number of public data sets are up on Amazon, including swine flu genome sequences, a dump of all the available procurement data on federal contracts from USASpending.gov, and anthropomorphic data on children.

Though Microsoft and Amazon have garnered some interest, Adams admitted the cloud won't necessarily be a fit for all government data, and said that any cloud hosting environment will ultimately have to be put on the GSA Schedule, passing rigorous security and other requirements along the way, to be a feasible place for the government to host its data.

Other new platforms are hoping to make better sense of government data, if not hosting it on their own sites. For example, Google Public Data, launched late last month, answers search queries with usable forms of publicly available data, like putting unemployment data in a timeline graph for the search "Maryland unemployment rate."

A new search engine called Wolfram Alpha will be focused exclusively on organizing data, including government-created data. Others digging deep into government data in their own way include independent organizations like the Sunlight Foundation.


InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on government IT priorities. Download the report here (registration required).

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