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Cloud Viewed as Fed's Answer to Big Data Needs

The govt’s growing appetite for collecting information is forcing agencies to consider the promised benefits of cloud computing

Cloud computing is steadily working its way into the U.S. federal government, potentially simplifying access to information for the public, but also creating some consternation over who ultimately controls that data.

Some federal agency managers are reluctant to hand over their data to cloud computing providers, for fear of diminished security or potential hassles should they need to switch vendors, according to an article on FederalTimes.com.

But the government's growing appetite for collecting information is forcing agencies to consider the promised benefits of cloud computing, such as storing and managing their data for less money and the ability to access data from any device over the Internet. The latter is a major tenet of the Obama administration's push to make more data accessible to the public, and to increase productivity by allowing employees to access systems and files remotely, or via the cloud.

"We see a lot of momentum behind these changes, but it's still [in the] early days," Mark Ryland, with Amazon Web Services' World Wide Public Sector, said of agencies using cloud computing to manage large amounts of varying and complex data. Agencies often refer to this as "Big Data."

Amazon's recent $600 million cloud contract with the CIA, though interrupted by a protest, is proof of the momentum Ryland is seeing. Under the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a four-year base period, Amazon was to provide a modified version of its public cloud, or cloud services available to the general public. However, the cloud hardware and software was required to be installed in a government facility and operated by Amazon.

"The CIA and the [intelligence community] in general have said that they want to retain all of the data they collect," said Alex Rossino, a principal analyst at market research firm Deltek. "This means that storage will be an exponentially growing requirement for the CIA and a huge area of profit for industry partners."

The "$600 million was really just the beginning," Rossino said. "We are talking potentially doubling [the contract to] at least $1.2 billion" over a potential nine-year period.

Enterprises Slowed by Aging Data Centers
A recent survey has found that data centers, often relying on technology more than 20 years old, are unable to keep up with the new guard of cloud computing, virtualization and mobility.

Even though most organizations continue to update their data center infrastructure, many are running on outdated resources, making them incapable of keeping up with the demands for a more virtualized, mobile and cloud-based world, according to a survey by Brocade.

A growing number of organizations are deploying fabric-based networks - which offer greater flexibility, scalability and automation - and are looking to begin rolling out software-defined network (SDN) technology by 2015, said the survey, according to an article on eWEEK.com.

The gist of the survey is one of data center administrators who are trying to keep their aging infrastructures running while they look to bring in newer technologies they know will help them keep up with the rapidly changing demands on their networks.

"Many data centers that exist today are based on 20-year-old technologies, and the simple fact is that they can no longer keep up with demand," Jason Nolet, vice president of data center switching and routing at Brocade, said in a statement. "Virtualization and cloud models require greater network agility and performance, as well as reduced operational cost and complexity."

Cloud Computing, Big Data Help Fight Childhood Cancer
The processing power of Big Data and the accessibility provided by cloud computing is helping in the battle against childhood cancer.

According to an article on Bionews-tx.com, computer maker Dell Inc. of Round Rock, which has more than 13,000 employees devoted to the health industry, is looking to help advance personalized medicine, faster genomics and other lifesaving advancements with the help of cloud computing.

Dell Inc.'s founder and namesake, Michael Dell, and his wife Susan Dell take a strong personal interest in supporting medical research and treatment, especially for children, through their philanthropic Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which, earlier this year announced a new $50 million commitment to establish the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin as part of a multi-year, $150 million investment to establish Austin as a center for excellence in family health.

Additionally, the Dell family foundation has committed another $10 million to Austin and Travis County community health quality and access programs over the next 10 years.

"A medical school at UT-Austin further establishes Central Texas as a center of excellence for family health and research," says Susan Dell, co-founder and board chair of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, in a release. "UT is a world-class university, and the medical school will be able to attract top talent, advance medical research and practices, and improve family health for generations to come."

Cloud computing plays an important role in transitioning from episodic care to prevention, wellness management and personalized medicine. For example, by leveraging their ground-breaking work with Translational Genomic Research Institute for pediatric cancer, Dell has recently announced a platform for low cost, faster genome sequencing systems and software that supports personalized medicine for a wide array of disease conditions.

More Stories By Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke is a writer and editor based in the greater New York area and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

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