From Wingspan Guest Blogger, PG Menon, Director, Solutions Architect for Brocade
I recently had the pleasure of serving as a commissioner on the TechAmerica Local and State Cloud Computing commission. The purpose of this particular commission was to provide recommendations to local and state government on deploying Cloud technologies and the benefits that Cloud computing offers. My work was focused on leading the Technology Imperatives working group that contributed to a report where numerous experts, drawn from business, government and industry serve as State and Local Government – Cloud Computing (SLG-CC) commissioners and deputy commissioners.
This SLG-CC Commission report released today follows, TechAmerica Foundation’s earlier release of a blueprint for the US federal government’s adoption of cloud computing, addresses cloud implementation and deployment challenges that are unique to states and localities and provides recommendations to overcome barriers in various areas.
Issues for State & Local Government
Over half of State and Local government CIOs identified controlling IT costs as one of their top two goals for the coming year. Besides controlling costs State CIOs are looking to cloud computing as a technology that enables strategies for improving government services and allow resource sharing between units while preserving their independence and data integrity.
Today, many governments find themselves functioning as islands with limited information sharing between, and even within, departments and agencies. While all organizations are concerned with the safety of information they place in a cloud, governments can have particularly complex security and privacy requirements and tight privacy constraints.
Technology Considerations of Cloud Computing
A key advantage of cloud computing is that, consumers don’t have to deal with the operational details of the underlying technology; those can be left to the provider. While the provider selects the hardware, manage its power and cooling, oversee communication, assure proper back up, train the staff, etc., cloud consumers need to know that these selections will be reflected in the service levels that the provider agrees to guarantee for the consumer. These need to be thought through in detail and negotiated ahead of time and include things like the responsiveness of the system, expected up-time, the speed of the underlying network, the reliability of backups, portability of information, identity management of users, security from external threats and privacy of your data.
Implementation Considerations for Cloud Services
Planning the initial steps will improve efficiencies and provide the savings expected from the transition to cloud computing. This includes assessing cloud readiness that identifies the organization’s business goals and objectively compares its current and desired state of IT process maturity. Assessing risk & planning governance assures that the organization is not taking undue risk. Implementing the solution according to plan using proven practice and accepted standards will ensure that the service will meet agreed upon requirements. Finally, the objectives of a technology transformation can only be met when the operation of the cloud solution is accompanied by a carefully managed transformation of the culture and business processes.
Acquiring Cloud Services
Established government procurement vehicles for information technology are generally ill suited to cloud computing. A detailed evaluation of possible procurement vehicles, business models, contractual terms and funding streams for cloud computing is necessary. Multi-government consortia and the federal government are beginning to make cloud purchasing options available to states and localities that specifically address portability, security, privacy, and service levels.
Today, cloud is helping government improve public safety. For example, the Lake Havasu, AZ police department migrated its email and other applications to the cloud so that law enforcement can access information anytime, anywhere from their vehicles or smart phones to better protect and serve citizens. Castle Rock, CO is accessing sister city Aurora’s COPLINK software in the cloud to improve crime-fighting with comprehensive information sharing and collaboration among all levels of state and national law enforcement and public safety agencies. The state of Michigan built its award-winning MiCloud Automated Hosting Service to deliver Infrastructure as a Service to state agencies in a shared services community cloud. Their next steps include building a hybrid model to extend IT capacity even further to support ongoing agency transformation projects.