House committee wants answers on cloud progress

Committe on Oversight and Government Reform seeks progress report from GSA

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is examining the benefits and challenges of a governmentwide transition to cloud computing. The committee wants information about government progress from the General Services Administration by June 18.

As the initiative is taken up by federal agencies, the committee wants to ensure that adequate safeguards are established to ensure a smooth transition, committee representatives said in a release issued today.

Committee members acknowledge that several committees and working groups have been created to expedite the federal government’s implementation of cloud computing services, including the Cloud Computing Executive Steering Committee, which is headed by Casey Coleman, GSA's chief information officer.

As a result, House Oversight Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Government Management, Organization and Procurement Subcommittee Chairwoman Diane Watson (D-Calif.) sent a letter on June 8 to Coleman regarding the governmentwide transition to the cloud. The lawmakers requested that Coleman deliver the requested information to the committee by Friday, June 18.

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"While there are compelling arguments for the federal government to utilize cloud computing, the technology is still a relatively new concept. As such, there are a number of questions and concerns about the federal government’s use of cloud computing,” the letter states. "The committee is examining these issues and intends to hold a hearing on the potential benefits and risks of moving federal IT into the cloud."

The government defines cloud computing as an on-demand model for network access, allowing users to tap into a shared pool of configurable computing resources, such as applications, networks, servers, storage and services, that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service-provider interaction.

The Obama administration created the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative in September 2009, with a goal of modernizing the federal government’s $76 billion worth of information technology systems.

The committee leaders are concerned that there are no clear policies and procedures in place for cloud computing; that standards have not yet been developed for security, interoperability or data portability; and that a finalized plan for the governmentwide implementation of cloud computing is not readily available.

Last month, a Cloud Computing Initiative vision and strategy document was made public, but it was unclear whether this plan for the governmentwide implementation of cloud computing was the final plan. The lawmakers are also asking for clarification on this matter.

A recent GSA Inspector General Semiannual Report to Congress highlighted significant schedule delays and cost overruns, frequent redesigns, and prolonged development times for GSA systems.

In light of the report, committee members asked Coleman if any cost estimates, including projected spending and savings, were available for the FCCI and whether GSA has developed any plans to address the unique challenges of cloud computing procurement.

They also asked for a list of which agencies currently use or plan to use cloud computing technologies and services and if any standards for security, interoperability and data portability have been drafted.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Jun 21, 2010

I'm quite certain VMWare is very happy with all the hype, as they're one of the primary vendors of Virtualization software (now sporting at least one former high level DOI decision maker). Those of us that have to depend on the cloud are constantly getting rained on, however. Perform a real world cost comparison - physical servers are CHEAP! Memory is CHEAP! Storage is CHEAP! VMWare is EXPENSIVE! The cost of managing systems is going to go up, not down, as we now have another layer to manage. The reduction in network ports and rack cables doesn't offset the overhead of vmware (15-20%). I see the cloud dissipating in some areas as time goes on if engineers, not marketeers, have the opportunity to forge our course.

Thu, Jun 17, 2010

It's not technology I'm worried about. It's the lack of policy, procedures, standards, assessment, and risk management surrounding not only the solutions but the SIZABLE investment the AMERICAN TAX PAYER (remember them?) commits to these projects. Read about what happened with L-3... if a GOCO situation can end up like that just imagine what happens in a COCO when there are NO defined controls to prevent it. Madness. It's like dropping your child off at a day care you've never been to before and know nothing about. Heck you never even meet the person caring for your child. Sound good?

Wed, Jun 16, 2010

Dont be scared of new technology

Wed, Jun 16, 2010

Personally, I've seen incredible success stories with the federal government using cloud computing solutions. The cost savings from the old-school custom development projects is mind boggling. And the applications are incredibly feature-rich and easy to deploy. Don't be scared of new technology. Learn new skills and evolve.

Sun, Jun 13, 2010

About time somebody asked the hard questions!! Just less than two years ago we were promised that Cloud computing would save us all as it was as simple as a flip of a switch. Now we are faced with a failed GSA acquisition, which nobody uses and discussion of "private clouds" being the future which are essentially what is in place right now with vitalization added. I hope they drill deep into this fiasco and get Kundra, Coleman, Tseronis and the whole cloud team on the carpet to explain how this is any better than vaporware.

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