Will the Public Sector Embrace Cloud Computing?

by Tien Tzuo


Recently, I came across an interesting headline in the Washington Post, “Government Turns Again To Cloud Computing”. The article begins:
Skeptics take note: Cloud computing is taking hold.


The Pentagon has awarded another contract for cloud computer — which, roughly speaking, involves putting software tools on the ‘net and delivering them to users only when needed.


I’m not surprised. At salesforce.com, I had a ring-side seat to watch all sectors- including government- embrace the SaaS model to reach their goals. Salesforce.com’s customer list already boasts a wide range of federal, state, and local government customers. Why? Besides the obvious benefit of reducing IT costs, cloud computing deploys fast, is easy to use, and it scales.


Karen Evans, a top official for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is pushing for greater government adoption of SaaS to cut development costs. According to InfoWorld, Karen says that the U.S. government needs to move to a more service-oriented software model.


Of course, we’ve heard concerns from the public sector over security in the cloud. But in my presentation at SaaS Gov 2007, I shared the facts that government and education sectors accounted for over half of all data loss events in 2006—and the majority of these were due to lost or stolen property. At salesforce.com, we saw corporations trusting their most sensitive applications and data to a Web-based service provider. Government Computer News reported that, “if corporate America can trust these types of applications to an outside service provider, the federal government won’t be far behind.”
With a new line-up of SaaS champions tooting the cloud computing horn in Washington, I believe the trend is accelerating.


In the last month, newly appointed Federal CIO Vivek Kundra acknowledged that rolling out government-wide common IT services will pay off in the long run. Kundra has been a proponent of cloud computing in government since his days as the CIO of Washington, D.C., where he deployed Google Apps to all city employees. In fact, Information Week reports that the Federal government is moving its information portal, USA.gov, to a cloud computing infrastructure this month.


More momentum: Aneesh Chopra, former Secretary of Technology of Virginia, recently assumed the post of Federal CTO. The state of Virginia has a well-known reputation for advanced technology adoption. In fact, Arlington County is one of salesforce.com’s largest customers. Thanks to the power of cloud computing, Arlington County deployed a custom CRM system in just 3 months. Now field employees have direct access to data that was locked on employee PCs and individual servers. Arlington County represents the future of government in the cloud.
As for me? I’m thrilled the top IT leadership in government is ready to go to the cloud.

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