The federal government's massive information portal -- USA.gov -- will shift to a cloud computing platform this weekend in a move that GSA officials say will slash infrastructure expenses and provide better flexibility.

"We are flipping the switch tomorrow to the cloud computing platform, so this is a nervous day," said Martha Dorris, acting associate administrator for the General Services Administration's (GSA) Office of Citizen Services and Communications, on Friday, May 1. The office operates USA.gov which receives more than 100 million visits per year. Dorris spoke at the 2009 mid-year conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).

The GSA decided in February to move the federal portal to a cloud computing platform, announcing an agreement with Terremark Worldwide, a Miami-based infrastructure services provider. The USA.gov portal will run on the company's Enterprise Cloud service.

Dorris said the move will cut the portal's infrastructure costs by as much as 90 percent and improve its capabilities. "We're saving money and we'll have a flexible infrastructure," she said, adding that complete migration to the new platform would be done by September.

The move presented a difficult cultural shift for agency staff, Dorris told state technology executives attending the NASCIO conference in Baltimore. "This isn't a story about technology. It's a story of culture," she said. "Our technology team did not want to give up the servers. We spend a lot of time moving people along."

The cloud solution will let USA.gov quickly tap into cloud computing resources to handle spikes in online traffic, according to Terremark.

"The on-demand nature of The Enterprise Cloud allowed Terremark to provide the GSA complete access to secure cloud-based computing resources within minutes instead of weeks," the company said in a February statement announcing the deal. "Terremark's solution will also supply GSA with industry-leading physical and logical security and robust connectivity to some of the world's leading carrier networks."