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Government Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Dana Gardner, Liz McMillan, Gopala Krishna Behara

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IT Giants Identify a Gold Mine in Federal Cloud Computing Market

Google and Microsoft are apt to woo Government orgs as Federal cloud initiatives intensify

With all the concerns about security risks relating to the cloud that are frequently brought up, there is no better way for the technology to stand up to scrutiny and quell any nagging doubts than to win over Federal bodies which are inherently apprehensive of turning over data to a third party. High tech firms offering cloud services are doing just that and creating specially segregated environments that live within the country to pacify the Government's rigorous data protection requirements . The perseverance seems to be paying off as Federal agencies which are seeking to alleviate their budget deficits are now taking a serious look at the cloud not just for non-critical apps but even for core operations. The US army is the latest one among them to announce its cloud shift. It is consolidating its data centers by embracing private cloud and has issued a request for proposals for this initiative. The budget for the Army Private Cloud (APC2) encompassing virtualized storage and computing resources is said to be around $249 million over the five-year lifespan of the contracts to be made. Though it is strongly leaning towards private set-ups for security reasons, the Army Statement of work surprisingly indicates that it is not totally averse to dealing with outside commercial data centers if , "the Army Private Cloud will be an enclave separated from the Contractors public cloud so that an appropriate level of security is maintained for DOD data."

"Since dedicated commercial data centers with existing Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network and Secret Internet Protocol Router Network connectivity are available with proven technology, the Army believes there are cost and performance advantages that can be realized by utilizing these centers for the Army Private Cloud requirements," the statement of work says.

Google has so far been catering to local and State government bodies like The Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Colorado's Statewide Internet Portal Authority and the Los Angeles city. It was one of the first vendors to spot and seize the potential in Federal market opportunities and announced its intention to offer cloud-computing services designed specifically for U.S. government agencies through Apps.gov, an online store that the government has opened for approved cloud computing applications . It has held good on the promise and has just released online office programs that have received the federal government's top information security stamp of approval . In other words , its hosted apps and data storage services have been certified as adhering to all the security compliances mandated by the Federal Information Security Management (FISMA) Act. The company is now authorized to operate at FISMA-Moderate level, a sensitive-but-not-confidential status that covers between 80 and 90 percent of government data. While most enterprises tend towards private cloud options for core operations in an attempt to capture enterprise-class service levels and security, Google in characteristic style has not made Google Apps for Government a dedicated Private cloud. While complying with FISMA standards of segregation, it is still built on Google's traditional multi-tenant architecture which it says is ideal to showcase all the associated advantages of cloud technology like lower costs and dynamic scalability. Microsoft which has been close on Google' heels in its Government pursuits has also been vociferous about its interest in the Federal cloud market and is reportedly close to receiving the FISMA certification.

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