By Jeff Erlichman
, 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media.
Patrick Stingley, CTO of the Federal Cloud and his team will
construct a Federal Cloud to host applications that work well in a
Cloud environment and offer platform services; it will be FISMA
certified so all agencies can use it.
After you “talk the talk” about a Cloud Computing strategy
and building a Federal Cloud, you actually have to “walk the
walk” and do something about it.
Self proclaimed propeller-head and geek Patrick Stingley, CTO of the Federal Cloud is in charge of doing something about it.
“I’m the CTO for the Federal Cloud,” Stingley told
the audience at the Cloud Computing Summit. He said the Administration
designated GSA as the lead, but he also made it clear that this is not
GSA’s Cloud. “Everybody has part of the Cloud, it is the
What you need to know most about Stingley is that he is ably qualified
to do the job. He’s a long time government IT manager that takes
his love of IT home. In his spare time at home he works using three
types of virtualization systems and a NAS in his basement.
“I’m the guy who builds the stuff. That’s what I do.
My job is to make sure as we plan the Federal Cloud, that we have the
technical knowledge to carry it off.”
A Broad Working Definition
No single approach or architecture can meet all of the
governments needs so a tiered approach will be provided. “Our
definition of Cloud includes more that you’ll find in wikpedia.
We are going to have IT environments that allow people to be able to
bolt stuff in such as a DBMS, rent server space as needed, as well as
able to use purist Cloud definition stuff,” Stingley explained.
His team will construct a Cloud to host applications that work well in
a Cloud environment and offer platform services; it will be FISMA
certified so all agencies can use it.
Stingley said the Federal Cloud will eventually offer tiers of services.
Tier 1 Services are all of the free services that are already out there
for Web 2.0 and Social Networking such as Facebook. Since government
doesn’t own these services, it needs fair use agreements for
their use. GSA has just finished those agreements.
Tier 2 Services is when GSA will be making the heavy investment in
contracts to provide Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service
and Storage as a Service.
Down The Road
“We are looking down the road at Portal services,”
said Stingley. “One of key components to getting everybody on the
Cloud is Portal services.”
For example according to Stingley if you are writing in Pearl or
PHS and other agencies are doing the same, it would make sense to put
up a Portal so you can write your code and share your code so the other
people can see what you’ve written. They might help you fix a bug
so quality of code improves and facilitates move to the Cloud.
Stingley also sees personalized storage as a key component on the
Cloud. He calls them Web folders because it makes sense to everybody.
If these folders are on the Cloud, then staff can you can be anywhere
and get back to your files. This makes it much better for telework and
COOP because it puts workers in position to get folders from home they
can’t get by going through their VPN.
Stingley calls email the “killer app” and said Cloud will
result in getting better value from your IT assets. For example,
workflow could be monitored and there could be automated reporting of
IT inventory and then we can offer some business intelligence tool so
you can do an analysis…
“Database as a service is big,” said Stingley.
“Eventually we will write apps and talk to web service and
powering it will be production quality relational database; we have to
stop being driven by new releases of databases. If go to a web service
DBMS, then you fix it once and won’t have to spend ten years
rewriting all your code and paying every time there is an update.”
Cloud Architectural: Platform Unspecific
The first is to be built on an open architecture with commodity products.
Stingley said they are going to create a set of vehicles, so if you
want to go to company here is the price, here is what it does, here is
suite of services. Other people will be able to reuse that same
contract vehicle and that’s where the collaborative portal comes
in to play.
“Within the Cloud we need the collaborative portal, the
authentication, email service, workflow,” Stingley noted.
“We need a standard set of interfaces and APIs to use the stuff
in the Cloud.”
Stingley also advocates the Federal government become less platform
specific. “This will allow us to build applications we can use
for an indeterminate time because when we tie apps to specific hardware
OS and specific languages that require rewriting when one or another
get updated, we spend a lot an awful amount of money just to maintain
our current functionality.”
“We need to go to the Cloud and abstract ourselves from the
hardware and OS, from the platform and doing so we will create a code
base for ourselves that will allow us to continue to use software for a
long period of time.”
As usual moving to the Cloud is not a technology issue, though
there are issues to be overcome. But they pale to the shift in culture
“You have a culture that needs to change and to embrace the Cloud
and embrace the concept of sharing,” urged Stingley. “Cloud
computing is a shared service; we need to learn how to share;
it’s not a hard concept, but we can’t agree how to do
A good example of this is the Federal Cloud according to Stingley.
“The Federal Cloud is being put together; it is a pilot and GSA
has been designated to build this.”
“I’ve been trying to figure out what we should call this?
If you want to go the Federal Cloud where would you go? Would you go to
Cloud@gsa.gov? Well no, it’s not GSA’s Cloud; it’s a
shared Cloud, so www.Cloud.gov
Stingley said “no, it’s whatever your agency is dot gov;
it’s your agency; it’s your infrastructure; it is part of
your infrastructure; not GSA’s, but it’s hard to get your
head around it sometimes.”
The concept is Cloud is the about shared services. “We need to
move away from that concept of vendor specific and platform specific
implementations and take a page from the open source community and
collaborate,” counseled Stingley.
Easier said than done; so how are we going to get to the Cloud?
“None of the agencies that I’m aware of in the federal
government could use a Cloud today,” said Stingley. “Maybe
put a website up to the Cloud, but most of the apps we have today are
not portable enough to move into the Cloud if we had it today.”
One way to go to the Cloud is for each agency to rewrite its own code
and that’s probably what we would do if left our own devices. A
better approach and one that can have success explained Stingley one
that embraces the Open Source model and puts up a collaborative space
so various pieces move on to a Cloud, they share.
“But we need to do this as a government, not as a whole bunch of
little armed camps,” warned Stingley. “That’s a big
change, but it’s our way to the Cloud.”