Why Open Cloud Computing Standards Are an Imperative for Government

We’re at an exciting inflection point: new converging developments in technology – the rise of mobile, social, and the cloud – are creating new opportunities for tremendous growth and value. This transformation, powered by the Internet, has created enormous opportunities and societal good, much that would not been realized without a pervasive commitment to open standards.

Nevertheless, the question remains: how do we truly enable the next wave of change, especially for our government agencies, and build the bridge to the technologies of the future?

At IBM, we strongly support the concept of open computing and believe it forms the essential framework needed to help government agencies overcome the challenges they face, allowing for seamless connection and enabling information flow – without bridging technologies – in real-time to those in need.

Information is the lifeblood of governments. Governments that consume, manage and produce massive amounts of information deliver the greatest value when that information is readily accessible to all. As technologies continue to evolve, governments are under considerable pressure to provide efficient and reliable information sharing services, often with fewer resources.

Simply put: speed has truly become the new currency in government IT.

Yet, as promising as cloud computing is, one of the biggest hurdles to widespread adoption may be the confusion over standards. Governments, as well as industry, fear jumping into muddy waters where skepticism outweighs reliability. A quick look under the covers of certain solutions often shows a patchwork of proprietary, siloed products that have a little server virtualization here, some specialized apps there, and a little “something-as-a-service” somewhere else, with no real thought to the enterprise as a whole.

That’s why open standards are critically important and should be the preferred choice for government procurement.

To solve complex, cross-agency problems and ensure efficient government, agencies must be able to share workloads, application and data seamlessly and in real-time, regardless of which vendor they have selected. Open standards alone can enable that interoperability.

I believe forward-looking leaders, many of whom serve as agency CIOs and leaders, understand the value of openness – they have seen the value that open standards has enabled in health care, smart grid and service-oriented architecture.

Increasingly, there is agreement that open standards deliver results:

  • Prevent vendor lock-in: spawning instead the creation of multiple competing products on different platforms from which government procurers and citizens can choose
  • Place the government, not vendors, in control: lessening risk so that no one company can pace, control or block technology
  • Reduce investment risks and barriers to entry: knowing emerging technologies are “future-proof” as they are based on industry accepted, widely used standards
  • Enhance efficiency and service levels: ensuring software interoperability for information, workload and service sharing, as well as data and application portability
  • Cost saving: optimizing total cost of ownership, including any needs to migrate to a new solution

However, openness cannot be achieved in one big step, nor with one policy alone. The administration’s “Cloud First” has started the conversation, but people need to advocate for this, pilot and play with open solutions and share experiences, and help build a community of open proponents both within and outside of government. Efforts such as OpenStack – a vibrant, open source software project that is supported by more than 269 companies and has more than 1,200 individual code contributors including NASA – are a good first step and participation should be encouraged by government agencies.

As we move forward, federal agencies are poised to make their first significant investments in cloud, and now is the right time to make the right decision on openness. Technology done in the open inspires innovation and helps drive change. The choice of open versus closed is one that will have a lasting effect. An open cloud will create a more efficient, citizen-centric government and ultimately, a better society for the future.

To learn more about IBM’s perspectives on cloud computing for the government, please visit: http://ibm.co/1kw3stw. You can also watch this video to hear my talk about the need for open standards in government.

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