Why Is the Government Slow to Adopt Cloud Computing?

Challenges and questions abound as federal agencies deliberate how to approach the cloud.

Will the cloud be at the core of our government’s IT services in the future? It’s true that cloud computing and software as a service offer potential cost savings, but at the moment, these technologies could be creating more problems than they solve.

As the government, and the General Services Administration in particular, examines the process of moving mission-critical applications to the cloud, questions are surfacing. Recently, MeriTalk surveyed 151 federal government IT managers and systems integrators to see if the benefits outweigh the challenges. Here are the top challenges:

  • Security
  • Culture
  • Budget
  • Reliability
  • Leadership

In addition, 45 percent of survey respondents said that their applications — many of which are custom-built — would need major reengineering in order to move to the cloud. Another 35 percent of those surveyed indicated that they would need to make at least “slight to moderate” changes to their applications.

But the challenges don’t end there. The security standards set forth by FedRAMP and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in February of 2012 have resulted in the approval of just one cloud vendor. As noted in a previous FedTech article, the amount of data is increasing faster than ever, and the government has ordered the closing of hundreds of data centers. To be well prepared for the cloud, agencies need vendor options and clear standards.

Given all of the challenges, is the cloud really the future? The answer isn’t black and white. As the MeriTalk survey indicates, cloud services do cut costs once the services are implemented, and 46 percent of survey respondents said that the cloud improves their ability to fulfill their missions. But perhaps we should temper our expectations. It might not be a silver bullet for computing problems within the government, but the cloud is probably a smart foundational shift in the way public agencies handle technology.

Based on the MeriTalk survey, moving to the cloud will be worth it in the long run. Here are some of the most striking benefits to cloud computing:

Opportunity for cost savings

  • Feds say the main benefit of moving mission-critical apps to the cloud is cost savings; it’s estimated they could save 21 percent of their IT budget — $16.6 billion annually — if every agency moves just three mission-critical apps to the cloud.

Early adopters report success

  • Of those who have moved mission-critical apps to the cloud, 91 percent report success.
  • Feds have moved mission-critical apps, such as financial management, procurement, logistics, CRM systems and project management, to the cloud.

A way forward

  • Despite the challenges, Feds see a future in the cloud: In two years, they expect 26 percent of mission-critical apps to be in the cloud; in five years, 44 percent.

Download the survey here, and read why many agencies are choosing private clouds over public clouds.

<p>Image courtesy of Master isolated images / <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net" target="_blank">FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>
Jan 03 2013