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State, Local Governments Face Cloud Imperative

TechAmerica report pushes state and local governments to quickly embrace the cloud to cut costs and improve services.
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A new TechAmerica report recommending how state and local governments should proceed to implement cloud computing should help them "wake up to the reality" of the industry's inevitable move to the technology, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference to launch "The Cloud Imperative," a report of cloud computing recommendations developed by a TechAmerica state and local government cloud commission, Newsom had some harsh words for state and local governments--particularly those in California that he believes are not adopting new technology fast enough.

Describing the current state of government technology affairs as a dark age of licensing models and legacy computing, Newsom urged governments to pay attention to the benefits the cloud can offer to help them cut costs and better connect with their constituents.

[ Governments face a variety of tech priorities. Read GSA Prepares For Federal Mobile Push. ]

"You're seeing with this rapid and extraordinary change how it is dramatically changing the way people do business with collaboration and communication," said the former mayor of San Francisco, which has moved an in-house email system to Microsoft's cloud-based collaboration suite.

However, the government has been slow to adopt the trend, he said. "Don't ever underestimate how far behind local, state, and federal government is in this technology," Newsom said.

The report--written by a commission comprised of 38 technology companies and 12 government officials--aims to encourage state and local governments to move to the cloud. It breaks down its recommendations into three parts pertaining to technical, implementation, and acquisition issues surrounding the adoption of cloud computing.

On the technology side, the report presents the four types of cloud deployment options the industry already is adopting--public, private, community, or a hybrid of these models--and said that selecting the right model should be the primary consideration.

It also suggests that authentication should be managed across all cloud environments, which should include identity management and other user-protection capabilities.

For implementation, the report recommends a four-stage management structure for the transition to the cloud in which agencies should build an inventory of apps that will be moved to the cloud as well as analyze process and financial impacts of the move.

They also should consider how cloud computing will impact current technical operations and network architecture, according to the report.

On the acquisition side, the report recommends that state governments create a contract vehicle specifically for cloud computing or cloud services that local governments can use. It also advises the development of specific terms and conditions for data portability, records management, security and privacy, and service level agreements.

The recommendations are not coming from the industry merely out of a spirit of altruism. To replace legacy and in-house systems with cloud offerings, governments will look to vendors and service providers for help as well as purchase services from them, giving the industry a vested interest in promoting the move. Indeed, the report itself is peppered with promotional material from cloud-computing companies like Google, Unisys, and Wyse.

Still, the report provides examples of how state and local governments already are seeing benefits from cloud computing, which can be accomplished if the technology is implemented correctly and cost-effectively.

In addition to the report, the commission also unveiled a portal that will publish best practices and trends that emerge as state and local governments advance their adoption of the cloud.

IT's jumping into cloud services with too much custom code and too little planning, our annual State of Cloud Computing Survey finds. The new Leap Of Cloud Faith issue of InformationWeek shows you what to be aware of when using the cloud. Also in this issue: Cloud success stories from Six Flags and Yelp, and how to write a SAN RFI. (Free registration required.)