Governments look to cloud computing to cut costs

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Fotolia_34585686_XS.jpgIn these days of public sector austerity, many governments are hoping that cloud computing can help them slash spending on IT without damaging public services. IT certainly is an area where governments can make savings, with overspend on public sector IT projects legendary.

A report from analyst Ovum earlier this year predicted that government agencies will become more open to cloud services as the need to cut costs becomes more important. “We expect to see consumption-based and shared delivery models gaining momentum in 2011, as agencies become more open to the efficiencies that a cloud-based approach can offer,” said Jessica Hawkins, analyst, Ovum. “However issues of privacy and security will mean some governments will remain cautious.”

cloud tenders, app stores

The UK government plans that cloud computing should account for half of its IT spending by 2015 – just four short years away. To help meet this goal it is inviting tenders for a £60 million G-Cloud project. Interestingly, this project was rumored to have been cancelled this summer as part of the coalition’s review of IT spending. If that was the case, then they have clearly had second thoughts.

The G Cloud initiative addresses the full range of cloud computing services, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and specialist cloud services. As part of its SaaS, the UK Government is also opening its own app store by the end of 2013.

The US Government launched its own app store back in 2009. It features a range of applications including business, productivity, social media and infrastructure that are designed for use by federal government agencies. However, there are fears that recent cut backs to open Government initiatives will put a number of e-government projects, including apps.gov under threat.

Still in the US, the Government is also pushing the adoption of cloud computing with its Cloud First policy, which mandates that federal agencies default to cloud solutions wherever possible from 2012. “Cloud computing is expanding rapidly in the federal government,” said Shawn McCarthy, research director for IDC Government Insights. “While cloud services have not yet had a major impact, we do expect to see a significant effect on numbers for 2011.”

solving security concerns

Security continues to be a concern, with many agencies worried about information security risks that cloud could pose. To help ensure security, the US Government has set up the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which mandates a common security risk model and policy across all public sector cloud services. Providers are already looking to meet government requirements with services tailored to their requirements, such as the AWS GovCloud, which “is designed to allow US government agencies and contractors to move more sensitive workloads into the cloud.”

Beyond the examples above of UK and US cloud computing projects, a range of different central governments are looking to cloud computing. For example here’s a list of government cloud computing initiatives worldwide compiled by Cloudbook.

Do you think cloud computing is best way for governments to cut the cost of IT?

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.