Vivek Kundra Moves Federal IT to the Cloud

The US government is facing a revolution in IT infrastructure. The country’s first CIO, Vivek Kundra has taken early steps towards moving federal IT to the Cloud. Back in November 2010, Jeffrey Zients, the federal government’s first chief performance officer, announced that the Office of Management and Budget will now require federal agencies to default to cloud-based solutions “whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists.” Since then, Kundra has launched a “cloud-first” policy that requires agencies to make Web-based applications a priority to his plan of closing about 800 data centers in less than five years. The effort is substantial and is planning to reduce the cost of his 80 billion dollar IT budget while increasing its flexibility.

When Kundra spoke at the at the 2011 Cloud Security Alliance Summit in San Francisco, he gave an update to his Federal Cloud Computing Strategy. In his presentation, he detailed the many reasons the federal government needed to begin moving to this new model. Most importantly, the government’s computing requirements are growing dramatically, building data centers at a mind-boggling pace. In the past 10 years, the US government went from owning 432 data centers to almost 2,100 data centers. As a result, 30 percent of federal IT spending last year went straight to data center infrastructure. In addition to the massive amount of overhead this kind of infrastructure creates, it absolutely stifles any kind of agility or innovation because there’s so much fiscal, intellectual, and emotional capital invested in it.

Apart from huge challenges and many milestones ahead, there have also been jobs done. The Department of Health and Human Services is using to issue electronic health record requests to more than 100,000 physicians, reducing turnaround time from one year to three months. The General Services Administration is moving 17,000 users to Google Apps, saving $15 million annually. The Army Experience Center is now using a customized version of to cut costs dramatically. Initial bids to upgrade the existing system, which relied on traditional infrastructure, ranged from $500,000 to over $1 million, while initial pilots of the new software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution cost as little as $54,000. Some easy wins, such as email migrations, are already being showcased. For example, simply moved its website from its existing infrastructure to the Amazon cloud. This move saved $750,000 annually—money that the government is now using to fight fraud.

This week, Kundra plans to announce that the administration is ahead of schedule in achieving these reforms and will detail 100 data centers to be closed by the end of the year as well as the government’s progress on implementing cloud computing. The 36-year-old has also made a point of trying to transform the market of vendors who sell to the government, particularly pursuing a far broader set of players.

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