Federal Cloud Computing Experiences Slowdown Due to Security

With federal agencies facing a September 10 deadline to report on the details of their cloud computing initiatives, the Office of Management and Budget is increasing pressure to transition appropriate services to less expensive cloud alternatives. Budgetary realities combined with the successes experienced by other agencies, such as with cloud-based invoice managementsoftware for e-procurement, have moved the conversation beyond whether other agencies will follow suit; at this point, it’s no longer “if” they will transition to cloud computing, but “when” and the OMB is taking steps to minimize slowdowns.

However, the General Services Administration (GSA), which is supposed to take the lead in encouraging adoption of federal cloud computing technologies and standards, is not without its own challenges when it comes to enforcing the White House’s cloud initiative; the Federal Times is reporting that some delays can be attributed to the GSA’s slow progress in determining whether potential vendors’ information systems meet federal security standards. This is leading some agencies to find their own cloud solutions within the limited pool of vendors that has already been granted security clearance. However, even with exercising that option, there is reported to be as much as a 55% price difference between cleared vendors, meaning agencies could still very well be paying varying amounts for identical services.

With cyber security being of utmost concern, especially given the rise in attacks that have made headlines in recent years, the general consensus seems to be that no one wishes to sacrifice security for the sake of speed. However, securing SaaS and other cloud-based technologies is nothing new to the private sector, a wealth of experience which federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel appears prepared to tap: “The key to spurring innovation under the current pressure is shifting to a customer-centric model for delivering government services, encouraging employees to take risks and partnering more with the private sector.” (NextGov)

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