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Agencies Want Cloud, But Legacy Costs Hinder Progress, Survey Says

Respondents from local, state and federal governments say about 80 percent of software runs on in-house servers.

A survey of government IT leaders released Aug. 13 shows cloud tech demand pushes on despite tight budgets and ties to outdated infrastructure.

The market research, sponsored by open data cloud company Socrata and conducted by EMC Research, surveyed more than 500 officials from the city to federal levels. Its key finding indicated that while budgets are tight, demand for cloud technologies continues to rise.

Of its respondents, 79 percent said their software is housed primarily, or completely, on in-house hardware. Statistics also showed counties to be the most viable opportunities for cloud growth with nearly 50 percent still tied to older local machines and networks.

As a cloud technology provider, Socrata’s Founder and CEO Kevin Merritt interpreted the findings as a major opportunity for cloud vendors to answer unmet needs for modern technology that’s cheaper, easier to maintain through third-party management, and more “simple and intuitive” for government consumers.

“We can help government shrink the footprint of its legacy database technology," Merritt said. "And, with the cost savings from our system, we can also help the public sector fund a much better and more modern way to utilize its data."

In an interview with Government Technology, Socrata spokeswoman Liisa O’Neill followed Merritt's statement by saying the cost savings realized extend beyond initial purchases.

“For some governments, they take the big-picture view and recognize that by adopting cloud technologies, they will save money over time," O’Neill said.

As an example, she pointed to King County, Wash., a client of Socrata's that has saved $54,000 per year by replacing manual tape backups with cloud-based backups.

Despite an eagerness to deploy modern cloud technologies, however, both Merritt and the 55 percent of the survey’s decision-making respondents expressed that financial constraints are a potent factor hindering commitments. According to a report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and Infosys Public Services, 45 percent of state CIOs say more than 80 percent of their budgets are spent maintaining existing systems, a practice that’s severely restricted by how much money can be invested in innovative technology infrastructure.

This stance was supported by an international Gartner survey of CIOs that said while on average, 79 percent of budgets are spent within the limits of their IT budgets, much of the digital innovation investments — such as cloud technology, mobile apps and analytics — are funded outside traditional IT funding. Still, Gartner said cloud technology was rated as the third biggest new investment priority by CIOs, just beneath business intelligence analytics, and infrastructure and data center spending.

Socrata’s push for the cloud technology was supported by Detroit CIO Beth Niblock, who in March received a grant from Socrata to launch the city’s first open data portal. Niblock rooted her support in her jurisdiction’s need for ease and efficiency in a constantly changing world of IT.

“When making decisions about what software and technology we’re going to use, I have to think about what is going to be nimble and sustainable,” Niblock said in a release. “It’s not about just catching up to the technology of today, it’s about having a foundation to support the data and technology of tomorrow."

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.
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