Over the last few weeks there have been rumors about a possible mandate from the OMB to all US federal agencies about the use of cloud computing (see here and here). According to a colleague of mine who attended an AFCEA breakfast last Friday, the US federal CIO Vivek Kundra alluded to the fact that all agencies will have some budget to pilot and plan for cloud solutions, while it is not clear whether there will be a real mandate.
On the other hand, as part of the data consolidation thread of the 2011 budget (see also Gartner research note – login required), it appears that the OMB will drive a very detailed inventory of existing government data centers, which may prelude to greater pressure to gradually move existing workloads toward IaaS offerings and new applications to leverage a combination of SaaS and PaaS.
As Vivek and his colleagues at OMB and GSA are quite smart, I hope we won’t see any big mandate. By exerting pressure on data center consolidation, encouraging more cloud-based pilots and making Apps.gov a better place to buy services (i.e. providing more services and an easier way to purchase above threshold), the US CIO can use moral suasion rather than a carrot-and-stick approach.
Mandating the use of cloud-based services would be like mandating the use of open source: different technologies, acquisition and delivery models serve different purposes. It is important that agencies have a clear understanding of the broad set of sourcing options available and have the means to take the most cost effective approach, one choice at the time.
I have just read the memo about the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative issued by Vivek Kundra last Friday. As expected there is no direct mandate to use cloud computing, but federal agencies must do a detailed inventory of their data centers and prepare a first and a final version of a data center consolidation plan (resp. in June and August 2010), for the OMB to approve it by the end of the year. In working on their plans agencies are expected to identify areas where “optimization through server virtualization or cloud computing alternatives may be used”.
It will be interesting to watch how this will impact the dynamics between those agencies that aim at being consumers of cloud services, and those that aim at being also provider of such services, as a means to hold to their assets. Could this be the dawn of multiple private clouds?