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Friday, May 14, 2010

Obama Administration Saving Money with Cloud Computing

The Obama Administration is saving you money with cloud computing. The White House announced yesterday that it will move the stimulus website, Recovery.gov, to "hardware and services [that] are shared, and not owned by the government."

As Nicholas Carr explains in The Big Switch, cloud computing is to information technology what the power grid is to electrical service. When electrical equipment first came about, each factory built and maintained its own electrical generators, just as factories previously had to generate their own mechanical power with onsite water wheels and steam engines. Then manufacturers realized they could outsource power generation to a big utility that generated oodles of power in a coal-fired plant or hydroelectric dam while the manufacturers concentrated on the widget-making they were good at.

Similarly with information technology: as computers developed over the last 50 years, businesses had to create their own IT departments to install and mainatain all of their own mainframes and servers and software. Cloud computing says, "Hey! You're not a computer company! You're a widget maker (or, in this case, the federal government). Focus on your core competency. Let us generate your computing power and manage your software." Instead of having your own bank of high-powered computers with expensive software, you just plug your vanilla computer into the Web, switch on your browser, and access software and processing power from a central utility.

The Office of Management and Budget says switching Recovery.gov to cloud computing will save $750,000 this year alone. Switch a million (oops! 1.15 million) more programs, and we'll have the stimulus paid for!


  1. Here's hoping they use something more secure than Sarah Palin who chose to use Yahoo Mail for some of her government business and had her account hacked...

  2. I'm confident President Obama's CIO Vivek Kundra has his head in a little more sensible cloud than Mrs. Palin does.

  3. I'm sorry sir, but all your data was lost in a cloud.

    The real question would seem to be how the government can actually save any money at all by moving data from its system to another system unless the government system is dreadfully inefficient and run by over-paid bureaucrats while the private system is somewhere in the universe with low wages or programmers that the government should have hired.

  4. Why do people keep calling this cloud computing? It's managed hosting, plain and simple. There is nothing magical about it. You're simply paying someone else to manage an online computing resource.

    Now, for computer "novices" that don't want to learn how to manage their own resources and can fit within the very restrictive online format, managed hosting makes sense. Simple website? Check. Online commerce? Check.

    However, if you want to do anything custom or different, you begin to run into immediate problems. The only way managed hosting companies can make money is if they standardize and limit how the computing resource functions. This decreases their human involvement, standardizes their product, and drives down costs which is where their profit comes. Standardization though limits what one can do.

    For an entity like the government, which has a significantly different online footprint than private companies, I would be surprised if managed hosting makes good sense for them.

    Lastly, if they mean "cloud computing" as in terminal based computing, we need to nip that immediately. I dealt with terminal based technologies in college and they were a bad deal in every sense. Slow, unresponsive, and obviously if you have any internet connectivity issues you lose right there. And now that the FCC has lost its ability to enforce net neutrality internet provides could charge "special" rates for such connections.


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