Sujatha Perepa| Wired

It’s no secret that cloud computing is transforming businesses across industries and creating a paradigm shift by delivering hosted services through the internet with unabated cost benefits and business innovation.

But while the private sector is building on cloud computing’s myriad benefits, government organizations have also aggressively begun to capitalize on them.

As an IBM solution architect and a trusted advisor to many of our government sector customers, I’ve seen how the financial constraints of the past five years have deeply affected how agencies deploy their solutions. These agencies are pressed to seek optimized business models while measuring their performance and service deliveries more closely — hence their inclination towards shared services.

While cloud deployments are mainly considered to contain costs by sharing services and infrastructures, government agencies have also devised innovative means of ensuring compliance across the enterprise (FedRAMP, for example). They’ve also been able to lower barriers to new business creation. Additionally, cloud adoption is helping governments to improve business flexibility despite their back-end silo systems. The U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, DOJ, USDA, Department of Education and more have been early cloud adopters, setting the trend and direction for others to follow.

The federal government isn’t solely relying on the same cloud computing model that hosts some of your favorite consumer applications delivered via the cloud like Netflix or Instagram. The private cloud environments they operate in definitely leverage some of the characteristics of elasticity in those public clouds but they need to be more reliable to handle mission critical workloads. That’s why IDC says that by FY 2014 U.S. Federal government spending on public cloud will be $1.7 billion vs. just $ $118.3 million on public cloud.

Government organizations are redefining their businesses to deliver improved citizen services. According to the U.S. Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, the U.S. government instituted the CloudFirst policy to accelerate the pace of cloud adoption. This document promotes the service management, innovation and adoption of emerging technologies. According to this document, “focus will shift from the technology itself to the core competencies and mission of the agency.”

Many agencies must support their mission-critical operations with agile and innovative cloud deployments that incorporate mobile, social and analytics technologies. However, they also have to take stringent compliance and security measures (FISMA, FIPS and FedRAMP mandates) to not compromise on national security from inside and outside threats.

Examples of Crucial Government Services on Cloud

Some of the key areas we’re seeing focus from the U.S. Federal government include:

IT consolidation: Government agencies realize the benefits of IT consolidation to increase operational efficiencies. They are reducing the cost of IT ownership by consolidating their server footprints through cloud and virtualization efforts. Similarly, datacenter consolidation is taking place to reduce hardware costs and also to drastically reduce the energy consumption by many fold.

Shared services: More government agencies are leaning towards sharing IT services to reduce costs and to improve business process efficiencies. Some of the key federal programs seeking IaaS and SaaS solutions include continuous monitoring, asset management, threat & fraud detection and prevention programs. Because these cloud adoption models allow the flexibility to deploy more current services with elastic capacity, the government programs are become increasingly agile and responsive to changing business conditions.

Citizen services: Almost all federal, state and local agencies provide a variety of citizen services/self services. For example, allowing citizens to monitor their energy and water consumption can help them be more vigilant of their usage. Accessing the status of their service requests (applications, loans, etc.) and even their medical records along with the informative wiki resources to improve consumer awareness is pivotal for everyone.  The Open Government Initiative is a classic example of informing and empowering the citizens through dashboards and scorecards about government and the flagship initiatives.

There’s a great opportunity to learn more about how cloud computing is transforming the government coming up in early October. Please join IBM for the Federal Cloud Innovation Forum on Oct. 3 in Washington, D.C. at the Willard Hotel. Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired four-star U.S. Army general Colin Powell will deliver the keynote address. Click here to view the conference details and registration info.


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