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Home > Our Work > Information Technology > Cloud Computing >

Ahead in the Clouds

Question for November/December 2010

Given the rapid expansion of mobile computing devices such as tablets and smart phones, how do you see cloud computing technology enabling capabilities, such as location independent access for users, on these devices? Please identify the best uses for this technology and approaches for the government, taking into consideration security and privacy concerns.

(Responses will be posted on an ongoing basis in November/December.)


Question for October 2010

For Federal IT leaders considering building a business case for a cloud computing investment, please identify the general cost categories/drivers to include in a business case, and if possible, suggestions on approaches for attributing value to new cloud features.


Responses

 

Douglas Bourgeois

Douglas Bourgeois
VP, Federal Chief Cloud Executive
VMware

This is a really good question because it considers the overall value of the cloud beyond simply cost efficiency – which is an important part of the value equation. As most are now aware, virtualization has become widely accepted as a key enabler for cloud computing. Infrastructure virtualization provides a significant means of achieving cost efficiency through increased asset utilization. So, the key driver there is the consolidation ratio. In my experience, another key driver of the business case is the VM density. As you know, not all servers are created equal and so it follows that not all virtualized servers are created equal either. In my experience, from a financial modeling perspective, VM density can be a major variable in a cloud cost model. The license cost of the software included within the cloud service offering can be another major driver. Some software products are more affordable than others and some software licensing models are more compatible with cloud computing than others. These structures can make it very difficult to get started in the cloud especially if software acquisition costs are allocated over a small, initial cloud customer base. In effect, the cloud economies of scale can work against you until sufficient scale is achieved.


Nathanial Rushfinn

Nathanial Rushfinn
Certified Enterprise Architect
CA Technologies

The promises of cloud computing can be nebulous. To build a business case, federal IT leaders need to balance costs of new capital expenditures with reduced operating expenses. They must also be able to measure the success of cloud computing from the viewpoint of the customer.

To realize the benefits of cloud computing, the cost of capital expenditures should be offset by reduced operating expenditures over time. Cost categories for capital expenses should include all of the hardware, software and installation costs to implement new cloud technologies.


Peter Coffee

Peter Coffee
Head of Platform Research
salesforce.com inc.

There's no question that cloud computing can be amply justified on grounds of reduced IT cost. That doesn't mean that cost-based justification is the best way to drive a cloud initiative.

Cloud computing both reduces and re-allocates the cost of managing data and supporting processes. In one widely cited study, Bechtel Corporation benchmarked its internal costs against its best estimates of the costs of cloud service providers. Across the board—storage, network, server administration, and application portfolio maintenance—the Bechtel estimates favored large-scale cloud providers by ratios on the order of 40 to 1. Economies on this scale are not merely attractive, but compelling.


Teresa Carlson

Teresa Carlson
Vice President
Microsoft Federal

This is a question that every government technology leader must deal with when evaluating cloud computing options. What's the ROI? Is this going to save us money? The short answer is unfortunately – "maybe". In general, cloud computing offers cost benefits through increased efficiencies, pooled IT resources and "pay-as-you-go" models. But when making the business case it's important to distinguish between different types of cloud offerings, because matching the unique needs of an organization to the right type of solution is the best way to maximize ROI.


Jim Young

David Mihalchik, Jim Young (pictured)
Google

Why the Cloud Makes Good Business Sense

Cloud computing offers the federal government an unprecedented opportunity to access more powerful, modern technology with constant innovation at a substantially lower cost. Similar to the existing practices of many businesses and government agencies who outsource functions like payroll, shipping, and helpdesk support -- it makes good business sense to use a cloud provider who offers better applications with government FISMA compliant security at a lower cost than an organization can provide on its own.


Larry Pizette

Larry Pizette
Principal Engineer
MITRE

The value that an organization obtains from well-publicized cloud computing benefits such as increased utilization of hardware, location independent access for users, and scalable computing environments, will vary based upon their unique goals and circumstances. "Every organization has to crunch its own numbers to evaluate the cloud solution that makes the most business sense, but the number of cloud options and reduced implementation risk make the current IT environment ripe for innovation" writes Teresa Carlson.


Question for September 2010

Often service level agreements (SLAs), contracts, or memorandums of understanding (MOUs) are used between organizations to define the relationship between the service provider and consumer. For a Federal Government or DoD context, please describe or suggest important attributes of SLAs, contracts, MOUs, or other status information that are needed to enable successful operational cloud deployments.


Responses

 

Gregg (Skip) Bailey, Ph.D.

Gregg (Skip) Bailey, Ph.D.
Director
Deloitte Consulting LLP

The relationship between the provider and the consumer (or subscriber) is critical to success with Cloud Computing, as it is with any service. One piece of the relationship is to fully understanding what you are buying. For an Internal Cloud, the provider and consumer may be in the same organization. In the case of a Public Cloud or Virtual Private Cloud, the need for a good relationship cannot be over stressed. It has been said that good fences make good neighbors. Creating and maintaining a good set of SLAs are the fences. Accordingly, a clear and healthy relationship of mutual understanding and alignment is a critical success factor. For the IT shop providing or brokering Cloud Services to internal clients, getting the right SLAs is critical as they ultimately are responsible to the client regardless of the downstream agreements.


Erik Hille

Erik Hille
Director, Cloud Business at CA Technologies
CA Technologies

Pressured to improve operational performance and accountability, many federal agencies have increased scrutiny over their outsourcing strategies. Ironically, as the outsourcing market has evolved to include cloud-based services, this level of scrutiny has not been applied to these emerging delivery methods. Cloud providers excel at communicating the business benefits of their service, but from an accountability perspective, many could stand to take a more proactive stance. Here are 5 things you should think about when establishing service level agreements (SLAs), memoranda of understanding (MOU), and performance measures with cloud providers:


Ron Knode

Ron Knode
Director, GSS, LEF Research Associate
CSC

In the Cloud, Security Begins with a 'T'

We've all seen clouds work. We've all read case studies of productive use of the cloud in both government and industry. We've all been inundated with a seemingly endless cascade of cloud technology announcements, offerings and alternatives. And, we're probably all near to some cloud technology testbed of one variety or another. In the face of such single-minded devotion to the "technology of cloud" we might conclude that all we need for a trusted cloud operation is the right technology arranged and configured in the right way. Clouds are technology, right?!


Peter Coffee

Peter Coffee
Head of Platform Research
salesforce.com inc.

IT-using organizations want service today, not a credit for service tomorrow -- or any other compensation for a service provider's failure to provide what was promised. Proven cloud providers like salesforce.com, Amazon Web Services, and Google are meeting the need for true service by giving customers prompt and detailed information -- via Web sites like trust.salesforce.com, status.aws.amazon.com, and www.google.com/appsstatus -- to provide the record of reliability, and disclosure of even slight departures from normal operation, that let customers plan with confidence.


Teresa Carlson

Teresa Carlson
Vice President
Microsoft Federal

The same terms always pop up when discussing cloud SLAs - uptime, availability, reliability. These words speak to the really innovative quality of cloud computing – how computing resources are accessed. You're not buying a product with a set of agreed upon features, you're buying a new way to house and tap into your IT assets. Customers want assurance that they will have access to their data and applications, and it's up to vendors to guarantee this access. When reliability is combined with security, cloud computing becomes a no-brainer, and SLAs are absolutely necessary to outline agreed upon service expectations that meet customer needs.


Lynn McPherson

Lynn McPherson
Lead Software Systems Engineer
MITRE

An SLA is an agreement between two parties, the service provider and the service consumer, that defines a contractual relationship. As Skip Bailey stated in his October response above, "The relationship between the provider and the consumer (or subscriber) is critical to success with Cloud Computing, as it is with any service." As is true in any successful relationship, both parties must understand and accept certain responsibilities—successful relationships are rarely one-sided. Among other things, the responsibilities of the service provider include providing the described service within defined constraints, collection of agreed upon metrics, timely production of predefined reports, and adherence to an agreed upon incident management and resolution process. Likewise, the consumer bears certain responsibilities which include, but are not limited to, ensuring that they don't exceed the agreed upon workload as well as validation that the provider is collecting and reporting metrics properly through a quality assurance surveillance plan.


Question for August 2010

Mr. Wes Schooley, US TRANSCOM J6, asks: "Can industry share some examples, including high level architecture details, regarding successful implementation of cloud computing-based 'Data-as-a-Service'?"

Notes for submitters: If referencing a Government example, please do not mention the organization or system name on the blog submission. We'd be happy to facilitate follow-up conversations between Government organizations and the submitter for more specifics.

Alternate question: Please share considerations and/or architectural approaches Federal IT leaders should examine for providing data services with a cloud based model.


Responses

 

Peter Coffee

Peter Coffee
Director of Platform Research
salesforce.com inc.

Data services are evolving from a commodity, priced on simple measures of data volume and transfer rate, toward a more differentiated market with a lengthening list of measures of quality – including accuracy, timeliness, integration/conversion flexibility and disaster preparedness. Data services are thus an excellent example of the need to think of the cloud as something more than a relocation of familiar infrastructure. The value is in the services that are added, at least as much as in the core costs that are (one hopes) substantially reduced.


Nicklous Combs

Nicklous Combs
Chief Technology Officer
EMC Federal

There are many specific examples of implementing cloud based data as a service and I would be happy to follow up with specific customer references in person but I will talk to a couple examples where we have implemented such services to support our customers both in and out of DoD.


Larry Pizette

Larry Pizette
Principal Engineer
MITRE

Many organizations can reap significant benefit from the features associated with cloud computing, such as location independent access to information and the ability to access data services with up-times guaranteed by service-level agreements (SLAs). Additionally, many large cloud-based offerings can provide extensive "on demand" scalability that can help an organization to increase their data service usage without a large, planned capital investment in storage hardware and infrastructure.



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"Ahead in the Clouds" is a public forum to provide federal government agencies with meaningful answers to common cloud computing questions, drawing from leading thinkers in the field. Each month we pose a new question, then post both summary and detailed responses.

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