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September 6, 2011


Fed CIO: Cloud Fix for Budget Crisis

By Joe Maglitta

Governments everywhere must to embrace cloud computing to reduce billions in wasted IT spending and help stimulate painfully slow economic recovery, says the outgoing CIO of the United States.

Doing so will help shrink the $80 billion federal IT budget, improve U.S. competitiveness against India, Japan and others with clear national commitments to cloud, and create huge efficiencies in financial services, education, manufacturing and in other industries, according to Vivek Kundra, the federal government’s top CIO from 2009 until August.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Kundra, now a fellow at Harvard University, pointed to the initial promise of the Obama administration’s “cloud first” policy. The directive mandates that each agency transition at least three projects to the cloud by next summer.

The General Service Administration, for example, cut email costs by 50 percent simply by moving to the cloud, he says. But that is small change compared to just cloud’s impact in health care. A productivity increase of just 1 percent, much driven by cloud, could translate to $300 billion in value.

Kundra challenges the foot-dragging by the State Department and others based on security concerns. Cloud computing is actually safer than traditional approaches, Kundra asserts, because large vendors can attract and retain more skilled security personnel than government agencies.

Besides, he notes, the cloud genie is already out of the bottle. Many federal and private users already use Dropbox, Gmail and other cloud-based services as part of vulnerable “shadow IT” organizations.

Kundra is no blathering bureaucrat. A former CTO for the District of Columbia, he has won widespread accolades for cost-cutting programs. He was named the 2009 CIO of the Year by InformationWeek for driving unprecedented change in federal IT; was an MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Award Finalist, and won the 2010 National Cyber Security Leadership Award by the SANS Institute for uncovering more than $300 million each year in wasted federal spending on ineffective certification and accreditation reporting. The man has got real IT cred.

True, Kundra concedes, big issues remain. First, nations must hammer how cloud data can travel between geographic and political boundaries. He suggests the U.S. and top European and Asian nations have a golden opportunity to go so at the next World Economic Forum meeting in January.

Kundra concludes: “The United States cannot afford to be left behind in the cloud computing revolution….The budget crisis will accelerate the move toward cloud services. Governments, businesses and consumers have a lot to gain” through the elimination of wasteful IT spending and creation of new 21st century jobs.

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