Last week there has been a number of interesting events concerning cloud computing and government.
It all started with the news that the State of California has awarded a contract for email to Microsoft, followed by the long-awaited list of IaaS vendors selected by GSA after 16 months and two RFQs, and was concluded by the announcement that also New York City decided for Microsoft.
Things seem to have changed pretty fast in a matter of months. Just a few months ago Google seemed unstoppable, with references of growing size (city of Westerville, Orlando and Los Angeles), and some commentators were predicting difficult times for Microsoft. And now, things have turned around, with big names like IBM and HP missing from the list of vendors awarded with the IaaS GSA contract (see Gartner analysis – client access required) and Microsoft piling up big wins.
Just one year ago, at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Florida, I chaired a panel with several vendors, including Google and Microsoft (see Gartner analysis – client access required). The former was exuding confidence due the several pilots and some of its wins, as well as the announcement of its government cloud. Microsoft looked more subdued, but now things look brighter for them than for their competitors.
What is particularly interesting in the cloud battle for the hearts and minds of government agencies is that while contestants are relatively clear, the battlefield is not. There is still considerable confusion about what different government organizations, and roles therein, consider being a cloud.
The question “I have a virtualized data center: is it a private cloud?” is unfortunately still very common. My answer is usually “why do you care?”. Cloud looks like a beauty contest, with many trying to prove that they are either using or seriously considering to use it.
Also some of the managed service vendors or system integrators feel compelled to have a position if not an offering about the cloud.
This begs the real question: how many twists and turns will the market take before cloud services become truly comparable, pricing models stabilize, portability standards appear, and government agencies can strategically embrace the cloud?