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Monday, May 6, 2013

Overview and Issues for Implementation of the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative: Implications for Federal Information Technology Reform Management

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: April 23, 2013
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R42887
Price: $29.95

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