Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Steven Lamb, Sematext Blog, Liz McMillan, Dana Gardner, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Government Cloud

@CloudExpo: Article

US Gov't Embraces “Cloud-First” Policy

Plans 40% Cut in Data Center Footprint by 2015

The Whitehouse Office of Management and Budget has announced that, from now on, cloud computing would be the "default approach to IT" for US government agencies.  The move comes as an element of a sweeping set of government IT reforms begun last summer intended to "close the IT gap" between the public and private sectors.  The cloud-first policy is expected to reduce a 2000+ data center infrastructure by as much as 40%, lowering costs, improving security and performance, and speeding up the deployment of new applications.

Closing the "IT Gap"

Last June, writing on the OMB web site, then-Director Peter Orszag made this observation:

"When many of my colleagues went from the cutting-edge, social media-focused Obama presidential campaign into the federal government, they remarked that it was like going from an X-box to an Atari.

"Indeed, a significant IT gap has developed over the past decade and a half between the public and private sectors - and that is a big part of the productivity divide between the two. Closing this IT gap is key to boost efficiency and make government more open and responsive to the wants and needs of the public."

It was the Obama administration's opening salvo in a war on manifold cost overruns, schedule delays, and outright failures in IT projects across dozens of federal agencies.  Since then, the OMB has formulated and started executing on a tripartite IT reform strategy, in which cloud computing plays an important role.

The first part of the strategy was the execution of an in-depth review of the highest priority IT modernization projects that were not yet delivered, "resulting in faster deliverables, terminations of projects that didn't work, and most importantly turned around projects that were in trouble," according to the OMB.  The second was a review of 30 financial systems projects across 20 different agencies with an aggregate budget of $20b, resulting in fully half of them being altered, reduced, or eliminated entirely.

"All In" on the Cloud

The third part of the IT reform strategy aims to substantially alter the way the US government spends its $80b annual IT budget going forward by adopting the "light technologies and shared solutions" of cloud computing, starting with the 2012 budget cycle.

In a speech last week before the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the OMB's deputy management director and chief performance officer, Jeff Zients laid out some of the particulars of the cloud-first strategy.

"What this means is that going forward, when evaluating options for new IT deployments, OMB will require that agencies default to cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists," Zients said, adding, "These platforms will allow agencies to easily adopt cloud solutions for systems, such as infrastructure, email, and productivity suites."

He also said that the OMB will help this initiative along by setting up secure, government-wide cloud computing infrastructure that will serve the needs of multiple agencies and result in the closing of as many as 800 data centers in the next five years.

This is great news for cloud computing for a number of reasons.

Cloud Validation

When an ultra-conservative customer like the US federal government embraces a new technology so whole-heartedly, it goes a long way to dispelling the enterprise CIOs' concerns about security and other issues that have been retarding cloud computing adoption in the high end of the commercial market.

Democratized Procurement

Furthermore, the cloud-first announcement included a declaration that the government would be "increasing budget flexibility and speeding up [technology] acquisitions."  This will almost certainly translate into smaller, pure-play cloud startups being considered for inclusion in new project procurements in a way that companies of their size never were before.

Increased Vendor Profit Margins

Finally and most notably, although the federal government aims to reduce its IT cost through its use of cloud computing, which means a corresponding reduction in the IT vendors' collective top line, the cloud-first initiative could actually improve their bottom line on federal sales.

In general, today, doing business with the federal government is not a high margin endeavor.  Where the average profit of S&P 500 companies overall is about 8.5%, most government contractors make only about five percent.  And, although highly specialized IT systems can individually earn above-average margins, the overall average for software systems sold to the federal government is about 8%, versus 12-16% for similar systems sold to commercial clients.

There are two main reasons why federal IT sales are less profitable than their commercial counterparts, and both of them stand to be potentially mitigated by the cloud-first initiative.

The first reason hardware and, to a lesser extent, software vendors make less profit on federal contracts is the typical government agency's enormous buying power.  Whether it is servers, switches or seats, huge agencies buy huge amounts of everything, and are so able to negotiate the lowest possible unit price on each thing they buy.

The economics and technology of cloud computing say that where an agency might have bought, say, ten separate server boxes to run dedicated application instances before, they will now buy a single box to run ten virtual servers now.  So, while the overall revenue might go down, the margin per megabyte or MIPS will go up.

The second reason for lower federal profit margins made by software and, to a lesser extent, hardware vendors is the attenuating effect on project schedules and budgets of excessive bureaucracy, shifting priorities, and even less wholesome factors like fraud and incompetence, coupled with a procurement process that makes it nearly impossible for vendors to be properly compensated for the time and money they lose because of those things.

There are multiple provisions accompanying the cloud-first initiative that should a long way to reducing and eliminating the various kinds of government waste that currently diminish vendor profits.   One is that the OMB is creating a new formal, government-wide career track for professional program management and will only approve IT projects with effective program management teams "hardwired into the agency's organizational structure."  Another is that they plan to streamline governance and increase accountability by "bringing senior executives to the table armed with the right information and expertise to provide meaningful oversight and drive interventions and decision making on specific projects."

In short, government cloud computing could be a much more profitable line of business than its predecessor.

Catch-Up or Leap-Frog?

Mr. Zients summed up the OMB's IT reform drive, of which the cloud-first initiative is such a large part, like this:

"Tackling the information technology gap between the public and private sectors is one of most effective ways we can make government work more effectively and efficiently for the American people. IT has been at the center of the private sector's productivity gains, but for too long Federal IT projects have run over budget, behind schedule, or failed to deliver what [sic] on their promise. That's why fixing IT is a cornerstone of the President's Accountable Government initiative."

That statement makes it sound like the government thinks it is trying to catch up to the enterprise, but, with regard to cloud computing in particular, one has to wonder if they really understand the magnitude of their goal.

While the OMB intends to use cloud computing to enable shutting down 800 data centers in a few years, most large commercial enterprises are still just taking baby steps, dragging their feet, or digging in their heels with regards to the cloud, and very few are attempting anything nearly as ambitious as the OMB plan.

The US government takes a lot of heat and engenders a lot of cynicism from its citizenry, and much of it is certainly deserved.  But, regardless of our individual politics, we each can probably think of at least a few things the government has done that to us represent startling achievements that we can't help but admire and hope will be further pursued in the wider commercial world, like space exploration or disease prevention.

Two weeks ago, I never would have guessed that cloud computing might be one such thing.

More Stories By Tim Negris

Tim Negris is SVP, Marketing & Sales at Yottamine Analytics, a pioneering Big Data machine learning software company. He occasionally authors software industry news analysis and insights on Ulitzer.com, is a 25-year technology industry veteran with expertise in software development, database, networking, social media, cloud computing, mobile apps, analytics, and other enabling technologies.

He is recognized for ability to rapidly translate complex technical information and concepts into compelling, actionable knowledge. He is also widely credited with coining the term and co-developing the concept of the “Thin Client” computing model while working for Larry Ellison in the early days of Oracle.

Tim has also held a variety of executive and consulting roles in a numerous start-ups, and several established companies, including Sybase, Oracle, HP, Dell, and IBM. He is a frequent contributor to a number of publications and sites, focusing on technologies and their applications, and has written a number of advanced software applications for social media, video streaming, and music education.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
With 15% of enterprises adopting a hybrid IT strategy, you need to set a plan to integrate hybrid cloud throughout your infrastructure. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steven Dreher, Director of Solutions Architecture at Green House Data, discussed how to plan for shifting resource requirements, overcome challenges, and implement hybrid IT alongside your existing data center assets. Highlights included anticipating workload, cost and resource calculations, integrating services on both sides...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet a...
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
The best-practices for building IoT applications with Go Code that attendees can use to build their own IoT applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Indraneel Mitra, Senior Solutions Architect & Technology Evangelist at Cognizant, provided valuable information and resources for both novice and experienced developers on how to get started with IoT and Golang in a day. He also provided information on how to use Intel Arduino Kit, Go Robotics API and AWS IoT stack to build an application tha...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? You need to discover patterns that are repeatable in vast quantities of data, understand their meaning, and implement scalable monitoring across multiple data streams in order to monetize the discoveries and insights. Motif discovery and deep learning platforms are emerging to visualize sensor data, to search for patterns and to build application that can monitor real time streams efficiently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, ...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) and Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) have entered into a definitive agreement under which Verizon will acquire Yahoo's operating business for approximately $4.83 billion in cash, subject to customary closing adjustments. Yahoo informs, connects and entertains a global audience of more than 1 billion monthly active users** -- including 600 million monthly active mobile users*** through its search, communications and digital content products. Yahoo also co...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Is your aging software platform suffering from technical debt while the market changes and demands new solutions at a faster clip? It’s a bold move, but you might consider walking away from your core platform and starting fresh. ReadyTalk did exactly that. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and over a decade of audio conferencing product development to start an innovati...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
It’s 2016: buildings are smart, connected and the IoT is fundamentally altering how control and operating systems work and speak to each other. Platforms across the enterprise are networked via inexpensive sensors to collect massive amounts of data for analytics, information management, and insights that can be used to continuously improve operations. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Chemel, Co-Founder and CTO of Digital Lumens, will explore: The benefits sensor-networked systems bring to ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...