Status Report

NASA Goddard CIO Blog: Cloud Computing in the Federal Government: On a Cloudy Day How It Will Astound You

By SpaceRef Editor
March 16, 2009
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I had the privilege of tutoring incredible lady in college Algebra the same week that I had to be on a Cloud Computing panel at FOSE. First, I must say that though we both got very little sleep, I’m so happy that Shakeba did well on her final. But it occurs to me that the advice that I gave to her to coach her through her astounding moment … just take the next step … is the same advice that Government IT Leaders need to follow with respect to leveraging value from this astounding technology.

Gartner, Inc. did some recent research to discuss the outlook for Government participation in Cloud Computing. The research, Cloud Computing for Government Is Cloudy (Jeff Vining, Andrea Di Maio), lays out some key issues.:

  • [T]here is little or no evidence of government agencies being ready to move beyond this and move mission-critical datasets into the cloud as part of an enterprise-wide strategy.
  • Government cloud-computing environments have common IT risks in areas such as data privacy, portability, access, loss and security as well as fears of vendor lock-in.
  • Because of cloud computing risks, federated government-owned/controlled cloud computing arrangements may have greater chance for short-term viability.

The emphasis above is mine, but the readiness, fears, and risks belong to each decision-maker. James Staten, from Forrester writes in Is Cloud Computing Ready for the Enterprise?:

Forrester spoke with more than 30 companies in this market to determine its worthiness for enterprise consideration and found that it provides a very low-cost, no-commitment way for enterprises to quickly get new services and capabilities to market that entirely circumvents the IT department. Infrastructure and operations professionals can try to ignore it as it is just in its infancy, but doing so may be a mistake as cloud computing is looking like a classic disruptive technology.

I’d like to say it a little more bluntly. If CIOs don’t get ready, manage fears and manage their risk, they will get run over by this disruptive technology. Your organization is doing it anyway – without you! So do something!

You don’t have to move your entire enterprise into the cloud, just take the first step and look at some appropriate datasets. This doesn’t have to be an all or none decision.

When making vendor choices, go in with the end in mind. I guess no one likes to enter into a marriage with a prenuptial agreement in the event of divorce, but then after all, this is your enterprise.

Don’t confuse control and ownership with security and viability. And for crying out loud, please make sure that you have a healthy – ok … semi-healthy governance process.

This tracks nicely to the advice I gave Shakeba about her final:

  • Don’t be afraid, but don’t be a hero either.
  • Make sure you have a good sharp pencil with an eraser.
  • Follow sound mathematical principals, and you will always be fine.

CIOs should not run and hide. The great possibilities in this disruptive technology merit us taking the next stops. Those of us who ignore it, will fail or be left behind.

Linda Cureton, CIO NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

SpaceRef staff editor.