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Industry leaders forming cloud computing commission

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By Marjorie Censer
Monday, March 7, 2011

As cloud computing picks up steam within the federal government, senior industry officials are seeking to put their stamp on its deployment, signing on to a panel that will make recommendations to the federal chief information officer and the commerce secretary.

The TechAmerica Foundation, a nonprofit group affiliated with industry association TechAmerica, is spearheading the effort. It announced last week that Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive of the Web-based sales management company Salesforce.com, and Michael D. Capellas, chief executive of VCE, a coalition formed by Cisco and EMC with investments from VMware and Intel, will co-chair the team.

Capellas has previously led First Data Corp., Compaq Computer and MCI.

The Obama administration has implemented a "cloud-first" policy that requires agencies to give priority to cloud -- or Web-based -- computing. Because the technology relies on a shared pool of resources, advocates say it reduces costs and improves efficiency.

The commission is expected to address the way the government should deploy cloud technologies and consider policies that could advance the cloud-first initiative.

Michael R. Nelson, a visiting professor of Internet studies in Georgetown University's communication, culture and technology program; Jim Sheaffer, president of CSC's North American public sector; and Dan Reed, Microsoft's corporate vice president of technology strategy and policy, have also signed on. Sheaffer will head a task force focused on government adoption of cloud offerings while Reed will oversee a task force on U.S. leadership in cloud technologies.

The group, whose final size has not yet been decided, is accepting applications for more members, requiring that applicants be senior technology or business experts with significant experience in the government or commercial markets. While members are required to appoint a deputy to handle day-to-day work, they are expected to show up three to four times themselves.

The foundation is also pressing members to make donations -- $5,000 for affiliates of larger companies and $3,000 for smaller ones.

Jennifer Kerber, TechAmerica Foundation's staff director for the commission, said the foundation is seeking a membership that represents a range of company sizes. She said the fee will cover the cost of the commission and is "relatively low."

Kerber said the foundation would like to have all of the commissioners on board by the end of the month and hold the first meeting in late March or early April. The group plans to present recommendations in June or July to Vivek Kundra, the federal CIO; Gary Locke, the commerce secretary; and Patrick D. Gallagher, director of the Institute of Standards and Technology.


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