Like most highly hyped technology topics, also cloud computing is raising increasing political attention. This is already clear for the U.S: Federal Government where many people at OMB and GSA push the idea of cloud computing as a cure for various IT diseases. But this is happening also at the state and local level. Two apparently unrelated news concerning the State of Washington give a flavor of what I mean:
- According to a CIO article, some lawmakers recently criticized the creation of a new State data center and office complex, claiming that the use of cloud infrastructure from vendors would be less expensive.
- According to a Microsoft blog post, due to a change in local tax laws, Microsoft decided to migrate Windows Azure applications out of their northwest data center (actually in the State of Washington) prior to the commercial launch scheduled for November. An article on The Register reminds that “When Microsoft first started work on its Quincy, WA, facility, it enjoyed from a manufacturer tax break, but in December 2007, the break was rescinded by the state attorney general because data centers “do not produce a product which is sold to the companies’ customers.” Microsoft soon halted construction on its local data center (as did Yahoo!)”. This latest announcement looks like an additional step in the direction of divesting from Washington.
All the above helps remind us that the interrelationships between government and cloud service providers will always go well beyond a simple client-provider one. Contentious points in deciding for or against cloud-based solutions will necessarily include elements such as local economic development (do we attract businesses in our jurisdiction? do we create better opportunities to exploit broadband investments?) and employment both inside and outside government (do we put government jobs at risk if we outsource to cloud-based solutions? do we create opportunities for local businesses to leverage from this?).
Of course the above has little to do with the benefits and risks that people usually discuss around cloud computing (such as economies of scale, elasticity, security, availability, and so forth). But I would not be surprised if they played a key role in future government sourcing decisions.
ironically, don’t you remember similar arguments made for another technology topic that raised political interest a few years ago (and still excites many)? Yes, you got it: it was open source software.