Vivek Kundra Makes the Case for Government Cloud

Thursday, September 01, 2011

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Former White House CIO Vivek Kundra may have left government service recently, but he has not given up advocating for further government investment in cloud computing alternatives.

In a NYT op/ed piece, Kundra states that he staunchly believes that the U.S. government's move to implement private sector managed services will have a tremendous benefit for agency efficiency and will foster a measurable savings for the government's overall IT budget.

"The budget crisis will accelerate the move toward cloud services. Governments, businesses and consumers all have a lot to gain, but not everyone will have an equal say at the table. Public and private organizations that preserve the status quo of wasteful spending will be punished, while those that embrace the cloud will be rewarded with substantial savings and 21st-century jobs," Kundra writes.

Kundra is probably most known for his role in developing the 25-point plan for federal agencies to govern information technology acquisitions and for advocating a transition to cloud-based systems for the U.S. government, a strategy that relies heavily on private sector vendor services.

But Kundra has also recently been highly critical of the nature of the public/private sector relationship when it comes to IT procurements.

"...governments around the world are wasting billions of dollars on unnecessary information technology. This problem has worsened in recent years because of what I call the 'I.T. cartel.' This powerful group of private contractors encourages reliance on inefficient software and hardware that is expensive to acquire and to maintain," Kundra asserts.

The "IT cartel" statements were first made in July during a meeting of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, President Obama's committee that makes policy recommendations on technology issues.

Kundra was echoing sentiments that have been trumpeted by numerous private sector technology leaders who have long complained that the federal process for contracting information technology services is dominated by a few large companies, and is too restrictive to allow the kind of rapid implementation of innovative solutions offered by smaller organizations.

"The United States cannot afford to be left behind in the cloud computing revolution. In health care alone, a productivity increase of 1 percent in the next 10 years — much of which could be achieved with cloud-based services — represents a $300 billion value. Similar efficiencies could be realized in sectors like financial services, education and manufacturing," said Kundra.

Security remains one of the biggest obstacles for the blossoming cloud-based services industry, but Kundra dismisses the concerns as negligible, and he even believes that cloud-based services will have a positive effect on network security overall.

"...cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies," Kundra stated.

Kundra also believes that failure to utilize cloud computing options will result in weaker security controls because employees will seek to use cloud-based utilities regardless.

"And government employees are so accustomed to using cloud services like Dropbox and Gmail in their personal lives that, even if their agencies don’t formally permit cloud computing, they use it for work purposes anyway, creating a “shadow I.T.” that leads to a more vulnerable organization than would a properly overseen cloud computing system."

Earlier this year, Kundra had announced his intentions to leave his post in mid-August to pursue a position at Harvard University. Kundra was appointed as the first Federal CIO in 2009 after having served as an advisor on Obama's transition team.

Kundra previously served as Director of Infrastructure Technology for Arlington County, Virginia and as Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology for Virginia before becoming the Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia.

Source:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/opinion/tight-budget-look-to-the-cloud.html

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