A Brief Look Back at Cloud Computing in 2012

This year many organizations were looking to transition to cloud computing to find cost savings and new efficiencies. With the launch of FedRAMP and agencies challenged to take a "cloud first" mentality, cloud adoption increased in the public sector.

Follow along here by viewing GovLoop’s Year in Review Guide, our related blog series, and podcasts. In this post, we’ll be looking at how cloud computing has shaped government in 2012.

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In GovLoop's year-end report, Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA, highlighted the importance of cloud technology in 2012, “The thing everyone was looking at in 2012 was cloud computing. We are all responding to the OMB mandate of cloud first. That coupled with the maturity of cloud products in the commercial space made cloud pretty exciting. I look forward to when the hype goes away and we stop looking at cloud as this cool one off thing and make it become the normal operating procedure.”

Linda continues, “I think we started to enter that in 2012. We are getting beyond the hype. And commercial products are now giving offerings that are very sensible and economical. So we’re not making decisions about cloud or not cloud, we are looking at the best service offerings for our agency and our environment.”

NASA was not alone implementing cloud technology, Bernie Mazer, CIO, Department of Interior, stated, “This year we moved our email to the cloud. And cloud will just continue to expand. We are also looking at adding applications to the cloud. And with the Digital Government Strategy the role of cloud as cost savings will continue to grow.”

Another core event that drove cloud adoption was the launch of FedRAMP, in 2013, expect to see further cloud adoption, more case studies, and agencies understanding that cloud is a core technology to find cost savings, and new efficiencies. A recent Oracle report states:

“Despite some early market confusion regarding the exact nature of cloud computing, public sector customers and vendors have rallied around the standard taxonomy defined by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This structure has enabled industry analysts to measure cloud-computing trends. From its humble beginnings, adoption and use of cloud computing is now growing at a compound annual growth rate of 26%. Further, cloud computing is expected to account for roughly 20% of the overall global IT market, excluding IT services and client devices, by 2015. Public sector organizations are already at the forefront of this trend. In fact, many major government IT organizations around the world, including the U.S., Canadian, U.K., Japanese, Australian, and South Korean national governments, have already defined their cloud strategy and determined to run centralized government clouds, leveraging public clouds where appropriate.”

One great example of cloud technology comes from NASA. According to Linda Cureton, NASA has used the cloud to help connect with citizens through the “Be a Martian” initiative. This is initiative is being run by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the laboratory loaded 250,000 pictures of Mars into a cloud platform, and shared the images with the public. “This “Be a Martian” initiative has been very popular, serving over 2.5 million data queries from crowd-sourcing applications and proving that the cloud can be a terrific way to reach and engage the public and support STEM activities in our schools,” Linda acknowledged.

As new technology enters the government IT space, it is essential for agency leads to acknowledge how technology changes the function of the CIO’s role, and what the true business value is for the agency. Cloud has a great business case as it allows CIOs to move from focusing on commodity IT to focus on delivering deeper mission value.

Malcolm Jackson, CIO of the EPA, recently spoke with Chris Dorobek on GovLoop’s Daily Podcast regarding cloud technology in government. Malcolm stated, “[Cloud] does change our job…We don’t have to worry about commodity IT services, that part of it we can allow a vendor to provide those services, as a CIO, that enables us to shift our focus on other types of more mission critical areas.”

In 2013, cloud computing will continue to shape the government IT landscape. Cloud computing, in tandem with other technologies like mobile devices, is a game-changer for government. The promise of cutting cost and working through fiscal austerity is appealing to all in government. The cloud is part of the solution, leveraging cloud technology can help agencies cut cost, increase productivity and assist in cross-agency collaboration. We are living in a fascinating time for government innovation. The ability to connect individuals, resources and information is unlike any other time in history. In many ways, cloud technology is at the heart of this transformation.

5 Lessons Learned from 2012

At GovLoop what we do is try to give you hands on and tactical best practices, we judge our success by how much we help our audience. So, for our year posts, I thought I would take some time to think through some lessons learned year for cloud computing. Here are 5 lessons for you to explore, and please be sure to share your own.

Know what you need

The cloud offers a lot of different options – public, private, hybrid, etc, for government officials it is important to know what exactly the business need is for cloud adoption, and how the services offered match. It’s basic, but before entering into any kind of contract, the framework for the cloud initiative needs to be laid out, with clear and tangible outcomes for cloud adoption.

Understand the business value

Cloud computing can do amazing things – but for each agency the need is going to be different. For one agency, cloud might be used to develop a new way to do email for an agency, others might want to implement a cloud structure to share photos with the public, share data with employees and/or citizens, the business need differs agency to agency. Regardless of the need, the agency must clearly articulate why the move is being made, what the metrics of success are, key roles/responsibilities and finally, make sure the initiative helps accomplish larger organizational goals in a secure environment.

Communicate the changes

Far too often, changes are made and decisions are jumped into, without engaging the key stakeholders. This is true for cloud implementation. Although the decision makers may know exactly what is needed, they must be sure that the end users are given the right tools and systems they need to perform their job. Stakeholder engagement is critical to any IT initiative.

Train and staff appropriately

Similar to communication, training is extremely important. Once a cloud initiative is developed, the agency needs to provide the proper staff, resources and IT support to train the agency how to fully leverage the tools.

Connect with Others

Talk to your peers, check out some GovLoop conversations, and learn from others and to know how to get started.

In 2012, cloud dominated events, agendas, and topics – for 2013, I anticipate it to be much the same, with an even quicker rate of adoption, more case studies and agencies leveraging cloud technology to redefine how the government does business.

Here are some further articles on cloud and Oracle sponsored blog posts this year – lots of great information on the cloud, project management, customer service and the workforce.

Oracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems that helps organizations overcome complexity and unleash innovation.. Check out their Optimize with Oracle group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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