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The Federal Cloud Journey
Why the GSA's cloud RFQ is good for the industry

Over the past few months it has been interesting to see the federal government's embracement of cloud computing. The catalyst for much of this seems to have been the appointment of Vivek Kundra to the Federal CIO position. Mr. Kundra was an advocate of cloud computing during his role as CTO of the District of Columbia as he pushed for the use of cloud-based services in the local government (a push that continues today). In his new role, Mr. Kundra has continued to advance the notion of using cloud computing to drive efficiency and innovation into the government's IT operations.

If this cloud computing talk from the government seemed like lip service at first, it has certainly moved beyond that now. According to an InformationWeek article, the federal government's General Services Administration (GSA) issued a Request For Quotation (RFQ) for cloud storage, web hosting, and virtual machine services. The GSA's RFQ outlines many expectations from the government of their potential cloud computing service providers, and it provides a glimpse in to how they classify cloud computing as the Federal Cloud Computing Framework is included. You can view the RFQ here.

It's interesting to get a glimpse into how the government is planning to leverage cloud services and what they expect from their service providers. More importantly though, I think this may mark an important milestone in the cloud computing industry. Anyone that talks with organizations knows that there can be a lot of skepticism about cloud computing. This skepticism can come from any level within a business (CIO, architects, developers, etc.), and it it's not hard to figure that a lot of this comes from the hype of cloud computing. More accurately, it's likely a combination of the hype and the newness of the technology that means there is not always a ton of empirical data to back up certain claims.

Enter the federal government and their increasing use of cloud computing technology and services. It seems likely that the varying uses of cloud computing within the government will serve as good case studies for businesses of almost any size in the private industry. These uses cases should help to identify the types of problems that lend themselves to cloud solutions, and more importantly, it should help to identify the value (or lack thereof) that cloud computing brought to a given problem. The transparency of the government, with respect to things like budgets, should help to provide a lot of the empirical data the cloud industry desperately needs.

Of course, there's also a risk for the cloud computing industry here. The government is continually stepping toward what looks like a pretty big leap into cloud computing, and if the results are mixed or worse yet, negative, it will likely be largely blamed on the technology, regardless of whether that blame is deserved. In the end though, I firmly believe that regardless of the initial results, the government's transparent journey into the cloud will be beneficial for both cloud service providers and consumers. What do you think?

About Dustin Amrhein
Dustin Amrhein joined IBM as a member of the development team for WebSphere Application Server. While in that position, he worked on the development of Web services infrastructure and Web services programming models. In his current role, Dustin is a technical specialist for cloud, mobile, and data grid technology in IBM's WebSphere portfolio. He blogs at http://dustinamrhein.ulitzer.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/damrhein.

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