NIST releases final cloud computing roadmap

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is tasked with promoting innovation and competition in the United States by developing reliable, measurable technology standards. Naturally enough, a key area of focus for NIST has been cloud integration

Recently, NIST released the final version of its Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap Volumes I and II, designed to help improve and accelerate cloud adoption among federal government agencies.

Standards needed
While cloud integration has been accelerating at a significant rate within the federal government, these efforts are still relatively immature. Yet, the value of cloud computing services is such that departments cannot afford to wait much longer before embracing the technology full bore. NIST's latest and final roadmap is a response to this tension.

"Cloud computing is still in an early deployment stage, and standards are crucial to increased adoption," the report noted. "The urgency is driven by rapid deployment of cloud computing in response to financial incentives."

Without standards, many agencies will be at risk of embracing cloud services that are not sufficiently secure, or that do not integrate well with other federal IT services.

Two volumes of guidance
As GCN reported, volumes I and II of the roadmap address different aspects of federal cloud adoption.

The first offers a broader overview for agency decision-makers. Specifically, the document highlights 10 key requirements for successful, innovative government cloud adoption plans, the news source explained. These requirements, which are essentially unchanged from the 2011 version of the NIST cloud roadmap, emphasize performance, security, interoperability and portability.

By contrast, the second volume focuses on more technical issues and emphasizes the importance of effective Service Level Agreements when procuring cloud resources. 

Complementary solutions
One key aspect of the NIST cloud adoption roadmap, GCN noted, is the importance of complementary technologies and strategies. 

For example, the report emphasized the significance of big data. According to NIST, cloud computing should be seen as an "enabler of big data capture, storage, analysis, sharing and management," the source noted. And big data, when combined with high-quality analytics, can deliver unparalleled insight, which in turn can inform far better strategizing in a huge range of areas. These possibilities should play a strong role when federal decision-makers consider their cloud integration strategies.

Just as important, if not more so, is the issue of cybersecurity. The NIST report explained that cloud computing services present unique cybersecurity challenges, and agencies must address these issues if they hope to protect their assets from the threat of breaches or intrusions. 

Specifically, the NIST roadmap emphasized the importance of an authentication-based approach to cybersecurity, along with cryptography and other defensive resources.

Even with this guidance, though, many federal agencies will lack the in-house expertise needed to execute fully secured cloud integration efforts. To achieve this end result, departments will likely need to work directly with third-party consulting and security firms that have the resources needed to guide federal agencies through every stage of the cloud integration process.