Eric A. Fischer Senior Specialist in Science and Technology
Patricia Moloney Figliola Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy
Cloud computing is a new name for an old concept: the delivery of
computing services from a remote location, analogous to the way
electricity, water, and other utilities are provided to most customers.
Cloud computing services are delivered through a network, usually the Internet.
Some cloud services are adaptations of familiar applications, such as
e-mail and word processing. Others are new applications that never existed
as a local application, such as online maps and social networks.
Since 2009, the federal government has been shifting its data storage needs to
cloud-based services and away from agency-owned data centers. This shift
is intended to reduce the total investment by the federal government in
information technology (IT) (data centers), as well as realize other
stated advantages of cloud adoption: efficiency, accessibility, collaboration,
rapidity of innovation, reliability, and security.
In December 2010, the U.S. Chief Information Officer (CIO) released “A 25-Point Implementation
Plan to Reform Federal IT Management” as part of a comprehensive effort to increase
the operational efficiency of federal technology assets. One element of the
25-Point Plan is for agencies to shift to a “Cloud First” policy, which is
being implemented through the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy. The Cloud
First policy means that federal agencies must (1) implement cloud-based
solutions whenever a secure, reliable, and cost-effective cloud option exists;
and (2) begin reevaluating and modifying their individual IT budget strategies
to include cloud computing.
However, there are challenges facing agencies as they make this shift. For
example, some agency CIOs have stated that in spite of the stated security
advantages of cloud computing, they are, in fact, concerned about moving
their data from their data centers, which they manage and control, to
outsourced cloud services. This and other concerns must be addressed to build
an agency culture that trusts the cloud.
Congress has a number of means to monitor the status of the Federal Cloud
Computing Initiative (FCCI). Individual committees may wish to monitor
agencies under their jurisdiction by holding hearings; requesting review
of an agency’s status through the agency itself or a GAO study; and/or
assessing an agency’s progress and projected goals against the stated goals of
the FCCI. .
Date of Report: January 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 31 Order Number: R42887 Price: $29.95
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