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GSA Moves into Cloud Computing

It is now government policy that IT should be moving websites to public “clouds”. Agencies must seek cloud solutions that include the full application development and deployment life cycles.

The existing systems capacity is fragmented across multiple platforms and providers. The new opportunities in cloud computing to leverage synergies, including data sharing, downloading, access and cross platform integration are enormous. The cloud environment contains the required security, service delivery and hosting capabilities necessary to support the development, testing, quality assurance, and production needs. All such services meet vendor-offered Service Level Agreement (SLA).

The implementation of a cloud-first policy must overcome difficulties arising from a fractured legacy infrastructure. However, we have an early case from the General Services Administration (GSA), how to proceed in an evolutionary progression.

Over 80,000 employees of the GSA are now using Google's G-mail cloud for email, calendaring collaboration and other common services. The agency finished the switch to a public private sector cloud model and is now is moving to engage other cloud services.

A four month migration from GSA to Google has re-purposed servers with an estimated saving of at least 50%. The operations of the old e-mails were pushed to the vendor, while obtaining added storage capacity and better continuity of operations. GSA also improved mobile access and delivered faster responses. The only initial hitch was to connect BlackBerry devices, which was accomplished by helping users how to update the conversion.

The GSA is currently looking at other Software-as-a-Service offerings such as by and others to provide project management and activity tracking, instead of hosting them as applications residing in the agency's network.

GSA has already set up pre-competed contracts for use by any government agency. This allows buying cloud services faster, easier, and more economically. An infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Blanked Purchase Agreement (BPA) has just been awarded for $76 million to twelve vendors to deliver IaaS services to Federal, state and local organizations.

The GSA contracts provide for the following:

Ubiquitous network access- Access through any web-browser.
Resource pooling- Resources are assigned according to demand.
On-demand self-service- Capabilities are assigned without human interaction.
Rapid elasticity- Capabilities are provisioned to quickly scale up or down.
Measured service- Pay per use.  Metering tracks resource use.
Security- Compliance with FISMA security requirements.
Data ownership - The Government shall retain ownership of all hosted data.

Cloud computing is starting to move into operations. The pace is slow because it requires demonstrated success to convince IT planners to change directions. We consider the initial installations by GSA as an early harbinger of developments to come as the required cost savings start dictating commitments to a new way of delivering computing services.

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