States test regional cloud hubs

The emergence of regional cloud hubs could significantly change the way state and local governments procure online computing services, according to a new report by IDC Government Insights.

A regional cloud hub involves a government agency, often at the state level, offering computing services to other government agencies, said Shawn McCarthy, research director with IDC Government Insights and author of the report.

"Best Practices: Regional Community Cloud Hubs — The New "Trickle Down" Effect That's Boosting State and Local Computing," looks at solutions offered by the states of Michigan and Utah and a few multistate efforts while outlining broader concepts and economic models involved in this type of computing.

Related coverage:

Utah moves e-mail to Google Apps for all state employees

Utah's hybrid cloud opens for service

In many cases, moderate or even zero capital expenditures are needed to take advantage of cloud offerings, the report states. The solutions are either developed in-house or are commercially developed private clouds dedicated to government use and designed to meet specific government standards.

"We believe that cloud hubs will see rapid growth, since first multiagency efforts already have shown a positive return on investment and solid service levels for cloud solutions subscribers," McCarthy said.

The state of Utah is on the forefront of offering hosted cloud services to other government agencies. Utah has reduced its 35 data centers to just two highly efficient computing facilities. “The state has made plans to create a set of cloud services, based in those two data centers, which it can scale and offer to state agencies, cities and counties within the state,” the report states.

The state is also working on a set of solutions that may be offered to states. Utah’s cloud solutions also conform to the Federal Information Security Management Act requirements for hosted services.

Utah CIO Stephen Fletcher described the state’s cloud as a “hybrid cloud” during an interview with GCN in March 2011.

“We’ll take our data center, which we think is competitively priced, and say, 'Hey, we will offer whatever service you want such as [hosting Microsoft] Windows or Linux servers and provide it at a reasonable rate,' ” Fletcher said. “I guess you can call us a hybrid [cloud]. We have a private cloud, but then we will have maybe some public offerings that we will include in this private cloud.”

An example of that private/public cloud mix is Utah’s recent decision to move e-mail to the Google cloud. Utah recently picked Google Apps for Government as its new e-mail and collaboration platform for all 22,000 state employees, Google officials said Jan 17.

Utah also is helping to coordinate a master agreement for the Western States Contracting Alliance, a 15-state consortium that helps participants join together in cooperative purchasing agreements that extend across multiple states, according to IDC report.

One of the first efforts, led by the state of Montana is to store geospatial data in a public cloud.

Michigan is building a set of solutions called MiCloud, spurred on initially by budget cuts, according to the report. “In 2010, Michigan entered its eighth consecutive year of budget reductions, and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget reacted by looking to cloud solutions as likely platforms for helping to reduce overall state IT spending,” the report states. “Today, MiCloud planners are assembling a wide range of IT services and provider relationships across both government facilities and the private sector."

The evolution of regional cloud hubs will have game-changing consequences, including turning a government agency cost center into a revenue center and helping local governments buy cheaper cloud solutions than they might find on their own, according to the report.

For information about the Regional Community Cloud Hubs report, contact [email protected].

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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