While there is no arguing about the staying power of the Cloud model and the benefits it can bring to any organization or government, mainstream adoption depends on several key variables falling into alignment that will provide users the reliability, desired outcomes and levels of trust necessary to truly usher in a “Cloud Revolution”. Until recently, early adopters of Cloud Computing in the public and private sector were the catalyst for helping drive technological innovation and increased adoption of cloud-based strategies, moving us closer to this inevitable reality.
Today, driven in large part by the financial crisis gripping the global economy, more and more organizations are turning towards cloud computing as a low cost means of delivering quick time-to-market solutions for mission critical operations and services. The benefits of Cloud Computing are hard to dispute:
Reduced implementation and maintenance costs;
Increased mobility for a global workforce;
Flexible and scalable infrastructures;
IT department transformation (focus on innovation vs. maintenance & implementation);
Greening of the data center;
Increased availability of high-performance applications to small/medium sized businesses.
Gartner, in a February 2, 2009 press release, posed a question of why, when “the cloud computing market is in a period of excitement, growth and high potential...[we] will still require several years and many changes in the market before cloud computing is a mainstream IT effort ”? In talking with government and industry leaders about this, it became clear that the individual concerns and variables that were negatively impacting a business leader's thought process regarding Cloud Computing (and therefore preventing what could be even more growth in this market) could be boiled down to one addressable need: a lack of understanding.
Let's take this case in point: GTRA research showed that the most common concern about implementing Cloud programs was security and privacy, a finding supported by an IDC study of 244 CIOs on Cloud Computing where 75% of respondents listed Security as their number one concern . It is true that moving from architectures that were built for on-premise services and secured by firewalls and threat detection systems to mobile environments with SaaS applications makes previous architectures unsuitable to effectively secure data. In addition, at a March 2009 FTC meeting discussing Cloud Computing Security and related Privacy issues, it was agreed that data management services may experience failure similar to the current financial meltdown if further regulation was not implemented.
In short, some executives are simply too scared to move forward with Cloud initiatives!
However, this concern, while valid, is not insurmountable. Already there are countless examples of successful cloud computing implementations from small organizations up to large enterprises who have a low risk tolerance such as the Department of Navy. The security community is also coming together through various initiatives aimed at education and guidance creation. The National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) is releasing its first guidelines for agencies who want to use cloud computing in the second half or 2009, and groups such as the Jericho Forum are bringing security executives together to collaborate and deliver solutions.
As with any emerging technology, there exists a learning curve with regard to security in a cloud environment, but there is no doubt that resources and case studies exist today to help any organization overcome this.
The same types of pros and cons listed above can be applied to other concerns facing executives such as data ownership rights, performance, and availability. While all valid concerns, solutions do exist and are being fine-tuned every day; the challenge is bringing executives out of a state of unknown and fear and giving them the understanding and knowledge necessary to make informed, educated decisions regarding their Cloud initiatives.
Here are a few simple steps anyone can take to begin to familiarize themselves with Cloud Computing and learn how it can positively impact your agency:
Ask for Help—Its OK to not fully understand Cloud Computing and how it can be applied to your agency/department. OMB, NIST, Cloud Computing Consortiums, and industry leaders who have applied Cloud Computing to their business are all willing to share knoweldge with you- you just need to ask!
READ! READ READ—There are a plethroa of books on the market which give an introduction to Cloud Computing and provide a quick, easy read to bring you up to speed. In addition, white papers and case studies can be found by the boatload online (even on this very portal!). Experiment with the Cloud- Many Cloud-based services from CRM tools (Salesforce, Smartsheet) to Social Networking (Linked-IN, Facebook, Twitter) have free trials available to new users where you can get started in a mattere of minutes. Create an account and play around so you get first-hand experience and can see how these tools can come together to meet your needs.
Gartner Press Release
March FTC Meeting
Parham Eftekhari is Co-Founder and Director Research and Curriculum Development for GTRA (Government Technology Research Alliance).
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