As we’ve discussed in the past, Obama’s technology team, including Vivek Kundra, the country’s CIO, is looking for ways in which the federal government can improve its IT acquisition process and adopt technologies that can make the government operate more effectively and efficiently.
Last Thursday, Kundra announced a series of steps that the government is planning to take to streamline how the government tests and purchases new IT technologies and to help drive down the cost of IT within the federal government.
Included in the plan was a directive for agencies to look to cloud services first to handle increasing data demand. Also included was a directive to reduce the existing number of datacenters in the federal government from 2,100 by approximately 800 datacenters.
The end result of this plan will be a sharing of resources between agencies. For example, if a datacenter is being underutilized by one agency, they will be encouraged to share those resources with another agency in need. Civilian agencies will increasingly make the shift to cloud service providers. Other agencies, such as those responsible for defense and homeland security, will most likely increase their adoption of private cloud solutions that provide all of the benefits of the cloud with fewer security concerns.
The agencies that will see the largest economic gains from their switch to the cloud will be the civilian agencies. These agencies will see a large portion of their IT spends switch from hardware purchases, maintenance and operations to infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
Currently, service, maintenance and operations expenses account for over 70 percent of their budgets, while 10-15 percent goes towards growth and a small fraction goes to innovation. A switch to the cloud will invert that pyramid of expenses and significantly cut down on the downstream expenses, freeing up IT budget dollars for innovation and other more mission-critical tasks.
Unfortunately, not all IT employees at federal agencies see this as a positive thing. After all, if your job is to “keep the lights on,” the switch to a cloud environment could be considered a major assault on your position.
For these individuals, it’s an alarming wakeup call for what’s coming down the pike. Cloud services provide such value and can so drastically reduce operating expenses that the switch has become an inevitability in the federal government. Instead of looking at cloud services as threats to their jobs, federal workers should instead be looking at them as an opportunity to shift towards more mission critical work.
To help in the transition, government agencies are going to have to reeducate staff and move IT people from being maintainers of the datacenter to architects of the cloud. In an effort to help the process, EMC and other vendors in the market are collaborating on a vendor net-neutral curriculum and certification process.
Government IT professionals shouldn’t be viewing the shift to the cloud as competitive or negative. It is, in fact, providing them with an avenue in which to be more innovative and provide added value to their agency and its mission. With government pay frozen for the next two years, it also gives them an opportunity to educate themselves, become more valuable and go up a pay grade. The benefits of the cloud and its ability to help agencies operate better and more cost effectively are making cloud computing the future of government IT. Now’s the time to step up and stop just “keeping the lights on.”
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