The White House has Moved to the Cloud – Have You? It’s Time to Plug In.

Even though the buzz over cloud computing has reached a fever pitch in the commercial sector over the last 18 months, federal agencies are only now starting to take real notice. With the announcement last week that the flagship White House website, moved its operations into EC2, I am hopeful that the debate of the last 18 months will morph into words into actions.

Although the rhetoric surrounding cloud computing is often hijacked by different people using different terms, the bottom line is that true cloud computing is analogous to electricity. When you plug in your refrigerator, toaster, air conditioner, or computer into your wall socket, you know that you are consuming electricity and that you are going to receive a bill from the electric company for the energy you use. Everyone can understand that on a hot DC summer day, if you put the thermostat down to 60 degrees that it is going to cost you money. It’s simple math.

Now, when it comes to the power of cloud computing it can be scary for the federal government to comprehend. It is hard for IT managers to understand how easy it is to just “plug in” to computer power (infrastructure as a service), or application power (software as a service).

Let’s look at to better understand.  The White House’s move of to Amazon allows them to “plug in” to server resources and as they get more traffic (power), they will get a bigger bill. No one has to worry about services or scaling. They just have to realize that the more traffic they get, the more they are moving that thermostat to a lower degree on a summer day.

But some savvy federal agencies are ahead of the curve on this one.  Several agencies are starting to pay about $50 per user per year to access Google applications that include email, calendar, and documents. Why is this important?  Well simplicity is one. If you want to have more people using the Google Apps then all you need to do is plug them in and pay $50.

This type of thinking is now a way of life in Silicon Valley, but in DC, everyone wants to know where the electricity is going, the status of the power lines, how the power plants work, and whether or not they need to build their own. While the government needs to pay closer attention to these questions for some applications, it can rest assured that when it plugs into the cloud they are going to increase productivity and reduce costs.

Now that’s some simple math the government can and should get behind.

If you have any questions or comments, I will be speaking about ways you can  “plug into the cloud” at the Gov 2.0 Conference on Thursday, May 27th at the Washington Convention Center. I hope to see you there!


Erik Arnold


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