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Information Technology Reform: Progress Made but Future Cloud Computing Efforts Should be Better Planned

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Citation Edit

Government Accountability Office, Information Technology Reform: Progress Made but Future Cloud Computing Efforts Should be Better Planned (CRS Report GAO-12-756) (July 11, 2012) (full-text).

Overview Edit

Seven federal agencies have made progress implementing the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) "Cloud First" policy. Consistent with this policy, each of the agencies incorporated cloud computing requirements into their policies and processes. Each of the agencies also identified opportunities for future cloud implementations, such as moving storage and help desk services to a cloud environment. While each of the agencies submitted plans to OMB for implementing the cloud solutions, all but one plan were missing key required elements. Until agencies’ cloud implementations are sufficiently planned and relevant systems are retired, the benefits of federal efforts to implement cloud solutions — improved operational efficiencies and reduced costs — may be delayed or not fully realized.

GAO identified seven common challenges associated with the implementation of OMB's "Cloud First" policy.

  1. Meeting federal security requirements
  2. Obtaining guidance
  3. Acquiring knowledge and expertise
  4. Certifying and accrediting vendors
  5. Ensuring data portability and interoperability
  6. Overcoming cultural barriers
  7. Procuring services on a consumption (on-demand) basis.

Recently issued federal guidance and initiatives recognize many of these challenges, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology standards and guidance, and the General Services Administration's program to assist federal agencies certify and accredit potential cloud service providers.

As part of a comprehensive effort to increase the operational efficiency of federal technology assets, federal agencies are shifting how they deploy IT services. OMB issued a “Cloud First” policy in December 2010 that requires federal agencies to implement cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, and cost-effective cloud option exists; and to migrate three technology services to a cloud solution by June 2012. Cloud computing provides on-demand access to a shared pool of computing resources; can be provisioned on a scalable basis; and reportedly has the potential to deliver services faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost than custom-developed systems.

GAO was asked to (1) assess the progress selected agencies have made in implementing this policy and (2) identify challenges they are facing in implementing the policy.

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