The US Federal Government recently announced its apps.gov portal for applications. This CNet News article provides a summary of what was announced by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra. apps.gov is a nice storefront featuring productivity applications to be used on non-sensitive data, and as such this announcement did not make big waves in the security community. These are some of the baby steps necessary before the Feds can consider moving more sensitive applications into the cloud.
While the US Government is talking cloud computing, it is effectively driving towards a private cloud so that they can more cost effectively go about their business. Google is jumping on this bandwagon by getting FISMA certification for Google Apps and working towards a “government cloud” in 2010. The private or “community” cloud makes sense since only US Federal agencies will use the resources and they need to maintain security & privacy. If safeguarding sensitive information were not such a preoccupation, considering the public cloud might make more sense as it can provide higher levels of security. However, even cloudless government systems are not immune to compromise as past experience has shown (some government data breach examples here, here, and here).
These are some of the initial, baby steps as the Feds turn the aircraft carrier that is the US Federal Government to leverage the flexibility and cost savings that cloud computing provides. When I chat with our US Federal Sales team, they indicate that a challenge is that the amount of underutilized computing resources today. It makes business sense to use up the existing capacity and slowly move towards a new private cloud architecture.
While I sit in the US, Trend Micro is a global company with sales relatively evenly spread around the world (slightly different than more US-focused peers in the security industry). I do not hear a similar focus on cloud computing from governments outside of the US. Government technology decisions are usually quite conservative and bureaucracies can be slow-moving behemoths ( apps.gov has lots of “coming soon” and “under construction” pages), but hats off to the US Government for trying to speed up the technology pace to leverage the economics and flexibility of cloud computing. However, this looks like more of a private cloud to maintain security and avoid losing sensitive information.