August 15, 2010    /    by

New Cloud Computing Offerings for Government: Yes, They Are Game-Changers

  Are recent announcements of product offerings from Google, Microsoft and others going to fundamentally change government technology service delivery?  Has the long ...

  Are recent announcements of product offerings from Google, Microsoft and others going to fundamentally change government technology service delivery?  Has the long foretold government paradigm shift now begun? Will we look back at 2010 as the pivotal year? Or, is this just another over-hyped tech story?

Lately, I am thinking that the answer may well be yes - we are witnessing a fundamental shift in technology service delivery for government. However, I think the full transformation could take up to a decade (or more) to complete.

In my opinion, the tech giants are starting in the email and office suite space and will succeed in making these commodity purchases for governments over the next few years. Meanwhile, more complex applications and mission-critical data will be moving into "government clouds" which are private and more secure. Bottom line, we have started down this new "yellow brick road" but certainly have a ways to go to arrive at the "Emerald City."    

   There are many people saying that recent announcements are game-changers. Here's a quick rundown on several interesting articles and related research on this cloud topic:

InfoWorld:  Google removes cloud security barrier for government

ZDNet: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

eWeek:  Cloud Computing: Google Apps Leads Microsoft in Federal Cloud Race: 10 Reasons Why It Matters

Government Technology Magazine recently did this story on the Google certifications for government .   I have also written several blogs and other articles on Cloud Computing security issues and offered recommendations to government technology executives  on the cloud. A few months back, CIO.gov released the Federal CIO Council's report on the " State of Public Sector Cloud Computing ."

Last week, the Digital Daily pointed to recent implementation challenges in LA, in this article Cloud Computing: Good Enough for Government? Microsoft told us back in February that FISMA-compliant cloud offerings are coming this year. I expect to see those offerings over the next few months, which will mean that they will match Google's FISMA-compliant offerings - with a similar price. These offerings also ensure that data is stored in the USA to help us with potential legal issues.

(One side note of caution: true FISMA compliance requires much more that just secure hosting by Google or Microsoft or others. It requires end-to-end security which includes our databases, PCs as well as office environment policies, procedures and even training. I worry a bit that these "compliant answers" are somewhat over-hyped in that government officials who may not know any better will think that they "done" with security if they just use one of these FISMA compliant services.)    

For more technical details on this topic, you can also read this PC Magazine blog entitled: The Changing Cloud Platforms: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and More

  Meanwhile IBM and smaller companies like Secure-24 are focusing on private cloud offerings. The International Business Times highlighted IBM's offerings , but almost every tech company I speak with now has one or more cloud offerings.  

So what can readers do to learn more? I like these six questions that Accenture recommends IT Executives ask regarding cloud computing. (Click on the recommendations and conclusions boxes when you get to this website.)

My view is that as we see even greater pressure to cut costs in 2011 and beyond, all of us will incorporate elements of these new cloud computing services into our offerings, if you don't already have them implemented. There's is no doubt that government technology execs will also need to improve their contract monitoring and vendor management skills in this new online world.

What are your thoughts on these new, improved "cloud offerings" in government?