September 21, 2009
Securing the Federal Cloud
On September 15th, the federal government officially launched Apps.Gov, the "one-stop source for cloud services" for federal agencies to quickly browse and purchase cloud-based IT services in the hope of reducing the $75 billion a year the federal government spends on IT. See the White House Blog post. The initial release is focused on noncritical government applications that will not be subject to the more stringent and challenging government security requirements. Details at Apps.Gov to Bring Cloud Efficiencies to Federal Agencies (E-Commerce Times). The video of the Administration's cloud computing announcement is provided below.
In an earlier LLB post, Mark Giangrande reported that Google is securing certification for Federal Information Security Management Act in conjunction with Google Apps for the provision of cloud computing. (Citing the Official Google Enterprise Blog post which was published to coincide with the App.Gov press event on September 15, 2009). To do so Google will have to tailor cloud computing services to the federal government's fairly stringent security requirements. In Computerworld's Google to deliver 'government cloud' to feds in 2010, Robert McMillan reports that "the services will be hosted in Google's existing data centers, but on systems that are compliant with government regulations. For example, the government cloud service will ensure that data remains in the U.S. and will be operated by technicians with appropriate government security clearances."
In January 2009, when Google announced the launch of its Google Apps Authorized Reseller program, the Company cited worldwide Google Apps adoption at 1+ million businesses with 10+ million active users in more than 100 countries. Findings from a IDC recent survey reported in Google Docs 'widely used' at 1 in 5 workplaces (Computerworld, Sept. 17, 2009) indicate that Google Docs has "tremendous momentum and may emerge as a threat to Microsoft Office." This, of course, prompts the obvious question posed by Sharon Gaudin in her article Will government gig put Google ahead of Microsoft in cloud race?
It's no coincidence that Microsoft's Office Web Apps, announced in July of 2009 as a feature of Office 2010 is now being tested by customers. See the Seattle Times September 17, 2009 article. The article cites to it's July 14, 2009 coverage of Office Web Apps, Microsoft to offer free Web versions of Office applications. From the latter article: "Microsoft will ... offer a variety of hybrid Web options for paying Office customers who may not want to trust all their data to free accounts on Microsoft and Google."
But what if Google secures the federal cloud first? One would expect that a ratcheting up of the Company's existing commercial cloud would follow. Will Microsoft Office be tossed in the dustbin of largely forgotten productivity apps like WordPerfect was in the 1990s? Will federal courts sign up for the Google-secured federal cloud and then specify Google Docs as the app of choice for court filings? Could happen, don't know, but Google has won this round in the publicity war. [JH]