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Senate committee stifles White House cloud computing caper

Shouldn't the Senate approve moving data centers into the cloud, especially if it results in better productivity and reduced cost?
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor on

It's rare that I find myself in agreement with a Senate committee. It's even rarer to discover a Senate committee that's been doing its job. It's rarer, still, when a Senate committee is making smart recommendations when it comes to something as geeky as cloud computing.

Who'da thunk it? The Senate Appropriations Committee apparently has a clue (and isn't afraid to use it).

Here's what's going on. There's a bill (S.3677) before the Senate that has a ton of various appropriation requests in it, including appropriations for what are essentially federal government Web mashups (think recovery.gov). The bill also requests about $35 million to consolidate government data centers into the cloud.

Now, we all know cloud computing has tremendous advantages, from cost containment to scalability, from multi-tenancy to redundancy. We know that if we could take data centers from 20 or 30 government agencies and float them up into the cloud, we'd save money -- assuming the process was done smartly.

That's where the Senate Appropriations Committee is concerned (here's a big PDF that's painful to read). It turns out the White House asked for a pile of cash to cloudify agency data centers. Unfortunately, while the White House claims it has a plan to make it all work, the appropriations committee isn't sure the plan is solid enough.

As a result, much of the White House's budget requests for cloud computing got shot down.

So, why am I in agreement with the Senate and not the White House? Shouldn't the Senate approve moving data centers into the cloud, especially if it results in better productivity and reduced cost?

The answer is so simple any first-year IT rookie would instinctively know the truth. Migrations can end badly if they're not thought through real well.

That's the issue with the White House's request. Their intent is quite good, actually quite smart for, you know, a White House. But migrating agency data centers is something that needs to be done carefully, especially since the nation tends to rely on the work output of these agencies.

That's why I agree with the Senate. No doubt we should make haste in cloud migration for government data centers. But we must only make haste once we have a solid, unimpeachable plan.

After all, we've already seen how bad things can get when a White House manages its information poorly, now haven't we?

See also:

Topic Center: Cloud Computing

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