Not too long ago, I wrote about a Federal IT spending dashboard created by the US Government that represented an unprecedented attempt at bringing transparency to federal IT spending, simultaneous demonstrating a federal desire of using modern technologies for a greater and common good.
Not content with this remarkable initiative, the US Government seems to have taken on another solid challenge: leading the charge for deeper and wider adoption of cloud computing across government agencies. Make no mistake: this is an extraordinarily ambitious initiative, but one whose benefits should (with some luck) eventually widely surpass the challenges.To get a first-hand look, check out the Apps.gov Web site.
In a nutshell, the site is a store-front that seeks to encourage government agencies to use cloud computing through bringing together an inventory of cloud-related applications "designed to help your agency harness the power of today's technology" and "get your agency in the cloud."
Why cloud computing? Because, according to Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, it can "reduce the cost of IT infrastructure by utilizing commercially available technology" and "improve data sharing and promote collaboration among government agencies."
The web site organizes cloud computing into four categories:
- Business apps, which is a wide-ranging category that includes groups like asset management, business intelligence, CRM, ERP, Security, Simulation, Testing and many more.
- Productivity apps, such as Brainstorming, Collaboration, Project Management etc.
- Cloud IT services such as cloud storage and virtual computing.
- Social Media apps that include a host of social web sites out there.
The initiative doesn't stop at creating a storefront -- it also streamlines the process of getting into cloud computing, e.g. agencies don't have to set up a new agreement with each vendor; the site provides standardized, approved agreements to speed it up.
So, is it time to celebrate?
Not quite. For one, this is just the beginning -- the wedding, not the silver or gold (let alone diamond) anniversary. Next, there are only a handful of vendors out there -- you're forgiven if at first sight it feels like an advertisement for SalesForce.com and/or Google (incidentally, this is certainly a comment on the leadership of these two companies in the cloud).
Last but not the least, setting up a cloud computing store-front with vendor agreements is one thing; getting government agencies to actually use cloud computing (with all its risks and uncertainties) and supporting them along the way is another. Is that included in the package? I don't know.
Nevertheless, this initiative is more than merely commendable, and I, for one, am all for it. Not all such initiatives will succeed -- some failures are to be expected -- but as they say, not failure, but low ambition is a crime.
This might just be the subtle but forceful nudge that takes cloud computing out of the esoteric and experimental world and begins to make it real for all of us -- vendors, customers and practitioners alike.If cloud computing is to deliver on its (as yet latent) promise, we need a true heavyweight behind it -- like, say, the US Government. By a curious coincidence, that's exactly what seems to be happening. Are celebrations in order?