Signs point to increased federal adoption of cloud computing

March 3, 2013

Building on agencies’ preliminary steps toward developing cloud strategies in 2012, this year should see a boost in agency action, translating into opportunities for contractors.

Cloud computing has become the norm in federal technology since the Office of Management and Budget’s 2010 “cloud-first” policy was introduced.

Now, the push to use the technology more is being spurred by the need to spend less, innovate and meet emerging requirements to support data storage, processing and analysis.

The fiscal 2014 federal budget makes clear that cloud computing will be a long-term part of the government’s IT framework. The OMB has provided specific guidance to reduce IT budgets by 10 percent, and agencies will be required to address their cloud portfolios and identify annual spending by deployment and service model.

Additionally, there are several policies and programs that make an ongoing shift to cloud computing more likely. Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel’s “Roadmap for Digital Government,” released last year, calls for building on the technologies agencies have already implemented — including cloud computing and shared services — to plan for future “innovating with less to deliver better digital services.”

The General Services Administration’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program — known as FedRAMP — went into effect last year, but vendor certification has proven to be a daunting task. As of this month, only two companies have been accredited, with more than 70 companies still in line for approval.

Industry officials anticipate that as vendors and assessors become familiar with the process, the wait time for certification will decrease.

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), gained momentum after his re-election in November. The bill specifically supports the adoption of cloud computing and government-wide standards for “security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.”

The bill also calls for government-wide contracting programs to buy IT “commodities,” including a centralized cloud service broker.

The convergence of cloud computing and big data — massive amounts of data analyzed by computer systems — is another possible sign of growing cloud use. The cloud offers the storage space and elasticity needed to analyze these huge data sets.

This convergence can also be extended to include mobile devices as well as the information assurance required to deliver more accurate data.

Jennifer Sakole is principal research analyst at Herndon-based Deltek, which analyzes the government contracting market and can be found at www.deltek.com.

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