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The US federal government could save billions by moving wholesale to the cloud

The US federal government could save billions by moving wholesale to the cloud

According to research published this week, although nearly three in every four US federal government agencies are using at least one cloud service, most federal government IT staff see a very limited role for cloud services within their overall IT strategy. MeriTalk and AT&T, the firms that commissioned the research, claim the feds may be missing out on nearly $19bn in IT savings.

The companies surveyed 159 senior US federal government IT decision makers for their views on how their agencies plan to use cloud services, and they found that despite some cloud adoption just 41 per cent of respondents said their agency is considering cloud as part of their overall IT strategy.

This is despite a ‘cloud-first’ policy launched by the US federal government several years ago, which mandates that US federal agencies consider cloud services in lieu of traditional on premise software for some services.

On a grading scale of A to F scale (with A being the best), about 51 per cent of respondents graded their agencies C or below in relation to their implementation of ‘cloud-first’ in practice.

The research suggests most (56 per cent) agencies are looking primarily at private cloud platforms, followed by public cloud (18 per cent) and community cloud (11 per cent).

When respondents were asked about what led federal agencies to investment more in private cloud over other cloud models, most (55 per cent) said perceptions of greater security, compliance with privacy regulations (38 per cent) and more reliable data loss management (36 per cent).

Nearly all respondents (94 per cent) said their agencies are being held back from investing more in cloud platforms due to security concerns, though 41 per cent said FedRAMP approval would make their agencies more likely to select a public or community cloud platform.

“While cloud is not appropriate for every agency, in every instance, there’s no question it can deliver compelling efficiencies for many, if not most, applications and we’re seeing increased appetite from government customers for cloud conversion strategies,” said AT&T government solutions vice president-technology Chris Smith.

Although many federal agencies plan to move email, CRM and HR platforms into the cloud over the next two years, the research suggests they could save up to $19bn or 23 per cent of the cumulative annual federal government IT budget for 2014 if they shifted all of the relevant IT services and applications over to the cloud, rather than just a select few.

The research comes at a time when big vendors like IBM, Microsoft and Amazon are rapidly moving to build out government flavours of their cloud platforms, which comply with the unique security and identity management constraints of the public sector. But these platforms may struggle in the near term given what seems to be a strong preference for private cloud implementations over community clouds, and struggles within agencies to drive implementations to completion.

“While cloud computing delivers a variety of efficiencies, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ cloud solution. Every organization has its own unique mission, security requirements, data sensitivities, and operational parameters. Helping agencies address those considerations is critical to the federal government realizing the full benefits and potential of cloud,” Smith said.