White House CIO to disclose cloud computing plans

White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra will explain how the federal government plans to offer cloud computing services to U.S. agencies at a Silicon Valley press event set for next Tuesday.

The event is a likely setting for Kundra to roll out the first phase of the government's cloud computing storefront, which will give agencies a central place to acquire simple collaboration and productivity tools. Kundra has been backing cloud computing as a way to cut government IT costs, by making inexpensive and easy-to-deploy computing services available via the Internet.

The model has proved popular in the commercial world, where Web sites such as Salesforce.com, Google and Yahoo are widely used for customer relationship management, e-mail, calendaring and collaboration.

Kundra is set to speak Tuesday morning at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "He will outline his vision for a new federal government cloud computing initiative," NASA said Thursday in a statement.

The U.S. General Services Administration expects to offer Web-based applications as part of this cloud infrastructure, but it is also working on database and testing environments, as well as cloud-based computing and storage resources, according to a June 18 GSA presentation.

The initial phase of the cloud storefront -- based on public cloud-computing resources -- is not expected to be used for sensitive applications, but by next year the government would like to offer cloud-based services that are hosted in private data centers and which could be used to handle more sensitive data.

How data from different government agencies can be secured when it is hosted on the same servers is the biggest stumbling block to this cloud computing plan, according to Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute.

"I don't think there's anything to delay massive adoption by the federal government, except security," he said. "The feds have always outsourced everything. What you're talking about is outsourcing at lower cost and at higher capacity. Tell me why that's a bad idea?"

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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