With an annual budget of over $80 billion the US Government is the largest IT buyer in the world, so their recent decision to go “Cloud-first” on their purchasing will drive huge uptake and endorsement of Cloud Computing.
Cloud Open Standards
They’re very influential in other ways too, and are growing to become a beacon of light that lays out a framework of global best practices for all other governments to follow.
Hand in hand with their pioneering adoption of this technology, they’re also pioneering equally innovative ‘Open Government‘ business models as well, that entirely transform how agencies perform their core workflows.
Furthermore they will play a central role in driving the development and adoption of Cloud standards that all other corporate users will benefit from too.
At their recent NIST workshop they begun the process of priming the industry to work together this way, creating the opportunity for industry leadership to develop Cloud Roadmaps. Having awarded their GSA schedule to a short-list of suppliers they want to avoid this growing into ‘Cloud siloes‘ through creating an open government reference architecture.
Portability is the key goal, the ability to transfer between different Cloud providers so that they’re not locked into one as a defensive measure, and in more practical terms a way of inherently achieving very high-availability because data is spread across multiple providers.
Best practice solutions
To help co-ordinate some aspects of this we’re now launching the ‘Open Government Innovation Network‘.
This will act as a best practices community, cataloguing various use case scenarios from the US and other governments, and linking these to Cloud product development programs. This will enable Cloud service providers to proactively deploy the applications, infrastructure and security practices required to become Open Government Cloud Providers.
How best practice case studies and industry standards can be used this way is effectively explained through one of our first solutions – ‘Government Cloud Storage’.
As Vivek Kundra, Whitehouse CIO explains in this news article, the only way they’ll realize the desired cost savings from Cloud Computing is if they can shift from in-house hardware to utility suppliers, for key requirements like e-archiving storage for their Exchange email, replacing out-dated technology and migrating 15,000 mailboxes to the cloud.
Cloud service providers can offer this capability through the ‘Hybrid Cloud Storage’ architecture, from the SNIA standards organization, explained in their ‘white paper‘ (12-page PDF).
They explain how an IT organization can incorporate storage from Cloud providers into a single framework that includes their own local SAN resource too. This can then be applied for scenarios like backup, virtual disks and e-archiving.
This is based on their CDMI standard (Cloud Data Management Interface) so that they can implement Private Cloud as a means of standardizing vendor storage interfaces, integrating legacy systems and includes an ‘export’ function to link in Cloud based services, in essence establishing a ‘Cloud File System’.
Furthermore, the recent Cloud Management Standards published by the DMTF can further tailor this for the unique security and compliance requirements of government :
Cloud service providers should utilize encryption and key management technologies in line with government standards.
Encryption and key management should be able to handle data isolation for multi-tenant storage and seperation of customer data from operational data of the service provider.
Data retention and secure destruction capabilities should be provided.
The cloud service provider should provide customer transparency regarding how data integrity is maintained throughout the lifecycle of the data.
This is a simple scenario that illustrates the powerful potential of Cloud, the win/win factor is key.
Government Cloud Storage will be low-cost and very easy to deploy and manage. Any commodity hardware SAN or NAS can provide a baseline of storage, and servers are provisioned merely by replicating Virtual Machine images, attaching them to virtual storage resources and recording their connectivity details.
Fifty servers can be managed by one entry-level systems technician and no new engineering is required to extend storage capacity, so service providers have a low barrier to entry. As more enter the market they’ll grow a critical mass that means government users can gain access to a growing market of low-cost service supply so that they can realize the tangible cost savings promised by the hype of Cloud .