Several federal agencies lead the way toward cloud adoption

By this point, it is clear that the federal government is making strong strides toward cloud adoption. Several years ago, the government adopted a "cloud first" approach to all new IT initiatives, directing agency leaders to consider cloud solutions from the outset when developing an IT project. This policy, and the clear value offered by the technology, has led to the proliferation of a number of federal cloud integration efforts.

But while cloud integration is a federal government-wide initiative, some agencies have been much more eager to embrace this trend than others, as InformationWeek contributor Elena Malykhina recently highlighted. She pointed out several agencies that were either early adopters or that have gone above and beyond when it comes to their cloud computing deployments. Such success stories are powerful evidence of the growing influence of the cloud on the federal stage, and a likely preview of other agencies' forthcoming efforts.

DOI investments
One of the leading federal agencies when it comes to cloud adoption is the Department of the Interior. The writer reported that the DOI has invested as much as $10 billion into its efforts to migrate its IT operations into cloud environments. To this end, the DOI signed contracts with 10 leading cloud services providers, each worth approximately $1 billion.

The sheer size and scope of this move is a testament to the DOI's confidence in the benefits offered by cloud computing. Clearly, the DOI's leaders believe that the long-term cost savings and performance upgrades provided via cloud solutions are worth a hefty investment. As time goes on and these efforts mature, more agencies will likely realize the need to maximize their use of the cloud.

GSA's early initiatives
While the General Services Administration has not put as much money into its cloud integration efforts as the DOI, it was among the first agencies to fully appreciate the advantages offered by this technology. Malykhina pointed out that in 2010 the GSA became the first agency to move basic collaborative services, such as email, into cloud environments. Specifically, the GSA moved approximately 17,000 employees' accounts into Google Apps for Government.

The writer also noted that the GSA played a lead role in developing the FedRAMP program, which is critical for encouraging and enabling cloud adoption across the federal government. With FedRAMP's established standards, it has become much easier for organizations to evaluate available cloud services without worrying unduly about security issues.

NASA to the cloud
One last agency leading the way toward cloud integration is NASA. Malykhina noted that NASA was among the first federal agencies to embrace the cloud, creating its own private cloud-based data center in 2009. The agency's use of the cloud continues to this day, and shows no signs of stopping. The department recently moved more than 100 websites and apps into cloud environments, an effort which agency leaders believe will save NASA millions of dollars in operating expenses.

Additionally, the writer pointed out that NASA expects to have virtually all of its public data based in the cloud within the next few years.

Cloud assistance
As these examples demonstrate, many federal agencies have had little trouble fully embracing cloud computing, and have consequently taken advantage of all its attendant benefits. However, there are many other agencies that have made only minimal progress toward achieving cloud integration. 

For these departments, outside assistance may prove essential. By working with a third-party service provider that has robust experience in the public sector, agencies can position themselves to take full advantage of the cloud's many offerings.