Congress to get an earful on cloud progress

Joint committee hearing will focus on the benefits and risks

Federal and private-sector proponents of cloud computing will soon get their chance to make their case to Congress.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement will hold a joint hearing on July 1, according to Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

On June 9, 2010, Towns and Subcommittee Chairwoman Diane Watson (D-Calif.) began an examination of the policies and procedures being put in place for federal cloud computing.

Committee members acknowledged 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, the General Services Administration's chief information officer. Towns and Watson sent a letter on June 8 to Coleman regarding the governmentwide transition to the cloud.


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Coleman and federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra have been invited to testify, although officials from their agencies have not indicated yet whether they will. The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Daniel Burton, senior vice president of global policy with Salesforce.com, a provider of cloud-based software-as-a-service solutions used by federal and state governments, has been invited and will testify on the private-sector panel.

Burton will address committee members' concerns about interoperability, privacy and security associated with cloud computing, an on-demand model for network access that allows users to tap into a shared pool of configurable computing resources.

“Not all clouds are created equal,” Burton said, noting that he will talk about multitenancy in the cloud and how it relates to Congress’ concerns about interoperability, privacy and security.

“The hearings are designed to address the risks and benefits of cloud computing,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

In April West authored and released a report, Saving Money through the Cloud. The report said government agencies that have moved to cloud computing have generally achieved between 25 percent and 50 percent in savings associated with information technology operations.

“There are substantial cost savings associated with moving to the cloud,” West said.

“As long as privacy and security worries are addressed, there should be greater emphasis on cloud computing in the future," West said. "The hearings should spur future government migration to the cloud.”

The federal government has made an aggressive effort to encourage cloud computing, he said. “It has developed Apps.gov that enables applications in collaboration, management, communications and administration,” West said.

The government also has made progress at addressing cloud security concerns, he said.

Over the past month the federal government has unveiled initiatives such as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which will allows agencies using cloud providers to share security certifications. The National Institute of Standards and Technology in May announced Standards Acceleration to Jumpstart Adoption of Cloud, an initiative geared to support the adoption of new technology and standards for the cloud.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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