The Obama Team's Cloudy Ambitions

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cloudsA new White House document reinforces the Obama administration’s intent to shift a substantial chunk of the federal government’s IT operations to cloud computing platforms in third-party data centers. The budget overview (PDF) paints in broad strokes, but signals significant changes ahead in the government’s data center infrastructure, which figure to boost the fortunes of major system integrators and cloud-builders targeting the government sector.  

“The Federal Government will transform its Information Technology Infrastructure by virtualizing data centers, consolidating data centers and operations, and ultimately adopting a cloud-computing business model,” the document states. “Initial pilots conducted in collaboration with Federal agencies will serve as test beds to demonstrate capabilities, including appropriate security and privacy protection at or exceeding current best practices, developing standards, gathering data, and benchmarking costs and performance.”

We’ve previously noted that new federal CIO Vivek Kundra is a big believer in cloud computing. The document makes clear that these testbeds are envisioned as the beachhead for a broader shift. 

“The pilots will evolve into migrations of major agency capabilities from agency computing platforms to base agency IT processes and data in the cloud,” it says. “Expected savings in the outyears, as more agencies reduce their costs of hosting systems in their own data centers, should be many times the original investment in this area.”

So who are the potential winners in the looming shift of government data center assets into the cloud?

  • Terremark:  The Miami-based infrastructure specialist has been targeting the government sector for years, and recently has teamed with CSC  to offer cloud computing services to the U.S. government in Terremark’s NAP of the Capital Region in Culpeper, Va., where CSC is the anchor tenant. Terremark recently began hosting the USA.gov web site on its Enterprise Cloud platform.
  • HP/EDS: HP is already helping the U.S. Department of Defense deploy a cloud computing platform known as RACE (Rapid Access Computing Environment). The program is designed to reduce costs and shorten delivery times for DoD computing projects.
  • Systems Integrators: These companies have always been key players in the outsourcing of federal IT operations, and that will continue. Wholesale data center providers report strong interest from systems integrators for both enterprise and government projects. “Our system integrator funnel is up 40 percent since September,” said Chris Crosby of Digital Realty Trust.
  • Google: As CIO of Washington, D.C., Kundra ported the district’s Intranet to Google Apps tools, touting the cost savings compared to other options. 
  • Cisco:  The budget document emphasizes the increased use of collaborative computing technologies across the federal government, “including online meeting capabilities and an increased capacity for telework.” There’s a green angle here: “Energy savings and environmental benefits will be important byproducts of reduced travel, and the government will be better able to function smoothly in emergencies,” it states. Sounds like opportunities for Webex and TelePresence.          

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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