Kundra: Current state of cloud utilization 'unacceptable'

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Even as private-sector enterprises gain efficiencies and cost savings from cloud computing, cloud strategies continue to present challenges for government, said Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra.

Speaking at an April 7 policy forum at the Brookings Institution, Kundra said the number of federal data centers has grown from 432 to more than 1,100 in the past decade. "But we're finding that server utilization is actually at around 7 percent. That's unacceptable when you think about all the resources that we've invested," said Kundra.

He also urged agencies to face the problem head on, by promoting a fundamental change in the way IT projects are handled. Government IT has historically been divided by silos which underutilize employees and create needless redundancies, when agencies could be collaborating on their technology efforts, he said.

Cost savings estimates vary greatly but a Brookings Institution paper, which was released at the forum, estimates that agencies could save between 25 percent to 50 percent of information technology infrastructure costs by moving in-house servers to the cloud.

"The economic benefits of cloud computing won't be realized if every agency independently reviews and certifies solutions," said Kundra.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will create standards for data portability, cloud interoperability and security, said Kundra. To kick things off NIST will host a "Cloud Summit" on May 20. This event will provide an opportunity for government agencies and the private sector to meet and discuss collaboration opportunities, both across government and through contracting. The summit will also begin NIST's efforts to define federal government requirements for cloud computing, key technical research, and U.S. standards development.

"In the government it can take years to procure, configure and deploy technology solutions. By using cloud services, the federal government will gain access to powerful technology resources faster and at lower costs. This frees us to focus on mission-critical tasks instead of purchasing, configuring and maintaining redundant infrastructure," said Kundra.

For more:
- read a transcript of Kundra's speech (.pdf)
- listen to a recording of the speech
- see the paper, "Saving Money through Cloud Computing," by Brookings Vice President Darrell West

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