Open clouds can help government run better, faster and cheaper

Governments are complex and fragmented organizations by nature.  Because they are fragmented by design, imagine having to support the computing needs in the government amidst multiple fragmented data centers and thousands of home-grown IT applications and complex systems.

Now imagine being told by your boss to be more entrepreneurial, innovative and cost effective.  For these reasons, many federal agencies have now embraced cloud computing technologies for its ability to provide technology services at a moment’s notice without the upfront investment of buying and managing a complex data center.  But, the real solution to becoming more entrepreneurial, innovative and cost effective actually lies in how open your cloud is as new capabilities are created aligned to mission needs.

As governments continue to embrace public, private and hybrid clouds with multiple vendors, many agencies are reviewing their data center strategy, the need for data and application portability becomes more acute. We do not want to recreate silos that prevent them from sharing data in the cloud. Data interoperability and portability are key considerations for the adoption of the cloud and to avoid vendor lock in, standards like TOSCA enable cloud work load portability.

As cloud computing evolves in public sector, one of the risks and a major concern is the proliferation of dead-end clouds and security being compromised.  For example – If our data is not portable, does not talk to each other and is easily accessible, how do we expect to manage evolving cyber threats that can bring down consumer confidence and key citizen services and military missions? It is important to make decisions in the context of desired capabilities and alignment with standards based cloud computing models.

Open clouds are also important to the government because they create a flexible, open IT infrastructure that can easily scale to meet growing citizen demand.  This allows government to share a wealth of valuable data, meaning greater transparency, interaction and intergovernmental best practice sharing leveraging social, mobile and cloud capabilities in an effective manner.

Open standards in cloud computing reduces the complexity in systems integration, break down barriers between clouds within government, and drive workload portability.  OpenStack, cloud standards and other open protocols can help ensure that today’s cloud will drive more innovation simply because they help avoid dead-ends or vendor lock-in.  We can’t afford to support proprietary clouds that do not support workload portability and interoperability.  We need a flexible environment that will ensure more portability, interoperability and security.

Cloud computing solutions built on open standards will also allow governments to focus on delivering value to the public without the burden of proprietary IT infrastructure, providing benefits for everyone through greater access to government data and services.

So, as a tax payer, sure, I envision a digital city, safer streets and a smarter government but, first, we must find ways to eliminate dead-ends, learn from our experience, create policies that drive innovation and make life better. We can enable some of it with open standards based clouds, and do it better, faster and cheaper.

To learn more about the role open cloud will play in transforming government,  join IBM for the Federal Cloud Innovation Forum on Oct. 22 in Washington, D.C. at the Willard Hotel. Former U.S. secretary of state and retired four-star general Colin Powell will deliver the keynote address.

Click here to view more conference details.

Comments: 2
Ramesh Menon

About Ramesh Menon

Ramesh is a Chief Architect and Cloud Technology Leader in the Federal sector of IBM Software Group
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2 Responses to Open clouds can help government run better, faster and cheaper

  1. Mike Jordan says:

    A significant hurdle will be specialization of information within specialties. Governments are fragmented because of specialization, and when high-level IT and business managers assume that information will be portable and share-able, they assume the meanings of specialized sets of information are consistent across those boundaries. Obtaining truly share-able information requires not only carefully designed cloud-based information systems, but a rethinking of business object models at all stages of the larger enterprise and it component subdivisions.

    The difficulties underlying efforts to develop public information about wetlands, water bodies, and public lands are examples of complexity emerging from attempts to developed shared sources from geographically diverse diverse and highly-specialized sources. If savings occur, they will only occur over a very long period; the up-front costs are enormous. That is not an argument against the benefit of making a cloud solution happen; we need to think very carefully about which applications are capable of supporting broad standards versus which applications require high levels of specialization (they could live in the cloud but still not be share-able.). The risks are that some applications and data may be too complex to generalize or that generalizing applications could take away from the ability of specialized actors to collect sufficient information their work.

  2. Jerry Yang, Ph. D. says:

    Good insights from Ramesh. I agree with his thinking, as cloud computing evolves, cloud portability and open standards become more important to prevent vendor lock in's, to enable quick business transformations, and maximize return on investment.

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