The federal cloud computing plan
June 30, 2014
by Mark Ollig

In 2009, the federal government began moving computerized information record files from its local data hubs, to cloud-based data storage centers.

A public cloud-based data server stores information in a remote geographic location. This information is accessed by the user over a network, like the Internet.

There are also private, community, and hybrid cloud-based data servers.

Having data files stored remotely in the cloud eliminates the need for having it stored in a local computer’s internal or external hard drive.

Using cloud-based data storage also removes the possibility of losing data due to a crashed computer, or hard drive/disk failure.

Major cloud-based data storage centers back up user data multiple times, and secures (via encryption) the information being stored. The data storage servers are also provisioned with power redundancy.

One analogy to compare storing data in a local hard drive versus the cloud is in how we use a commercial power utility for obtaining our electricity.

Back in the 1800s, in Troy, NY, Henry Burden built a 70-foot-tall by 12-foot-wide iron and wood water wheel. He built it in order to harness the power of the rushing water flowing out of a stream from a nearby waterfall next to his factory.

Burden used this power for operating the factory’s machinery.

By the early 20th century, it became more cost-effective to operate factory machines using electricity from the commercial power grid, versus constructing and maintaining water wheels or other independent power generation systems.

Today, it is not only becoming more cost-effective, but more practical and convenient to use cloud-based solutions for storing and retrieving data; instead of purchasing and maintaining one’s own data storage devices.

One reason the shift to cloud-based storage was proposed within the federal government by the Office of E-Government and Information Technology, was to help decrease information technology (IT) costs.

Another reason was the advantage of storing and retrieving cloud-based data from remote locations.

Other advantages include security, reliability, and the means to automatically stay up-to-date with the cloud’s rapid technical innovation.

In 2010, a “25-point implementation plan to Reform Federal IT Management” proposal was released by the US Chief Information Officer.

The purpose of this plan was to improve the efficiency of federal technology resources.

One of its points was to enact a “Cloud First” policy.

Agencies were to start a reassessment and modification policy to include cloud computing within their IT financial planning.

This policy required federal agencies to put into service cloud-based solutions; as long as they were secure, economical, and reliable.

One concern raised by some of the federal agencies, was the moving of data they currently controlled to an outsourced, cloud service provider.

It was obvious in the report I read, these agencies were having issues “trusting” the cloud, even though the data would be fully encrypted.

They were not alone in their hesitation.

I read where Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, expressed his apprehension with storing one’s private data in the cloud.

Of course, we have been storing data in the cloud for a while now.

Our private e-mail messages are stored in the cloud, using providers such as: Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL.

Some of us are creating and storing our word processing documentation on Google, WordPress, and Microsoft’s suite of online office products accessible via the cloud.

We’re uploading our personal photos to Photobucket, Instagram, and other photo-sharing service providers using storage servers located in the cloud.

Video we upload from our smartphones and other devices to YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook are being saved in the cloud, as well.

Nearly all of our social networking now takes place in cloud-based servers.

However, a number of online social networking sites are not cloud-based; or even on the Internet.

There are vintage computer BBS’s (bulletin board system) still operating out there, accessible only through telephone dial-up modems.

Some folks (including yours truly) enjoy the feeling of nostalgia being logged into a local community BBS.

Most of the computing applications we use today on our mobile devices are stored and processed in a cloud-based server.

Where we create, retrieve, share, and store our data is moving to an all cloud-based services platform.

A May 13 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report states HP and Cisco, leading manufacturers of the data storage servers, routers, and other equipment used for cloud-based services, is investing over $1 billion during the next two years for cloud-computing products, services, and development.

This investment will go, in part. towards developing new processors needing little electrical power. These will become part of “The Internet of Everything,” which we will be seeing embedded in many devices by 2020.

Google recently announced substantial price drops for its cloud computing services and storage.

Microsoft recently purchased a high-performance, cloud computing company called GreenButton.

I have no doubts: the “cloud-wars” among service providers has officially begun.

Gartner Research shows annual US spending on public cloud services will increase approximately 20 percent this year, reaching $158 billion.

OMB states conversion to cloud-based services has increased; as has the construction of cloud-based data-centers.

Some 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies will be deploying cloud-based “social-enabled solutions” via social media networks by 2016.

In 2017, 50 percent of mobile application development will use the cloud, and 14 million jobs worldwide will be created due to the increased growth of cloud computing.

A recent Microsoft study reports 45 percent of organizations have gone beyond the “pilot phase” for instituting cloud-based computing services.

The study said 32 percent of organizations have developed cloud computing plans as part of their IT and business strategy.

Some 24 percent of organizations presently consider themselves to be “heavy cloud users.”

Nearly 40 percent of executives surveyed expect parts of their organization’s services to be utilizing the cloud by 2015.

By 2020, it is said, cloud data centers will become cloud “ecosystems,” having incredibly fast response times, with its data traveling over high-speed broadband network connections to users.

The changeover to cloud-based computing services continues to expand, as the applications and services we use within them keeps growing.

I like to think of our transition to cloud-based services as the next technological evolution in how we access, create, share, apply, and store information.

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