Open clouds can help government run better, faster and cheaper

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Governments are complex and fragmented organizations by nature.  Because they are fragmented by design, imagine having to support the computing needs in the government amidst multiple fragmented data centers and thousands of home-grown IT applications and complex systems.

Now imagine being told by your boss to be more entrepreneurial, innovative and cost effective.  For these reasons, many federal agencies have now embraced cloud computing technologies for its ability to provide technology services at a moment’s notice without the upfront investment of buying and managing a complex data center.  But, the real solution to becoming more entrepreneurial, innovative and cost effective actually lies in how open your cloud is as new capabilities are created aligned to mission needs.

As governments continue to embrace public, private and hybrid clouds with multiple vendors, many agencies are reviewing their data center strategy, the need for data and application portability becomes more acute. We do not want to recreate silos that prevent them from sharing data in the cloud. Data interoperability and portability are key considerations for the adoption of the cloud and to avoid vendor lock in, standards like TOSCA enable cloud work load portability.

As cloud computing evolves in public sector, one of the risks and a major concern is the proliferation of dead-end clouds and security being compromised.  For example – If our data is not portable, does not talk to each other and is easily accessible, how do we expect to manage evolving cyber threats that can bring down consumer confidence and key citizen services and military missions? It is important to make decisions in the context of desired capabilities and alignment with standards based cloud computing models.

Open clouds are also important to the government because they create a flexible, open IT infrastructure that can easily scale to meet growing citizen demand.  This allows government to share a wealth of valuable data, meaning greater transparency, interaction and intergovernmental best practice sharing leveraging social, mobile and cloud capabilities in an effective manner.

Open standards in cloud computing reduces the complexity in systems integration, break down barriers between clouds within government, and drive workload portability.  OpenStack, cloud standards and other open protocols can help ensure that today’s cloud will drive more innovation simply because they help avoid dead-ends or vendor lock-in.  We can’t afford to support proprietary clouds that do not support workload portability and interoperability.  We need a flexible environment that will ensure more portability, interoperability and security.

Cloud computing solutions built on open standards will also allow governments to focus on delivering value to the public without the burden of proprietary IT infrastructure, providing benefits for everyone through greater access to government data and services.

So, as a tax payer, sure, I envision a digital city, safer streets and a smarter government but, first, we must find ways to eliminate dead-ends, learn from our experience, create policies that drive innovation and make life better. We can enable some of it with open standards based clouds, and do it better, faster and cheaper.

To learn more about the role open cloud will play in transforming government,  join IBM for the Federal Cloud Innovation Forum on Oct. 22 in Washington, D.C. at the Willard Hotel. Former U.S. secretary of state and retired four-star general Colin Powell will deliver the keynote address.

Click here to view more conference details.

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