Vivek Kundra, former CIO for the U.S. federal government, resigned earlier this year to take a position at Harvard, after developing a number of plans to move federal IT services to the cloud. Though he has left the position, he continues to encourage this step.
It started as long ago as last December, in his initial 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management report. Announcing his intention to shift to a Cloud First policy, Kundra said that the cloud was more economical, more flexible, and faster, particularly with programs with demand that could ramp up quickly.
After declaring he would release a cloud strategy within six months, Kundra did it in two, with February's Federal Cloud Computing Strategy report. Up to $20 billion of the government's $80 billion in IT cost could be migrated to the cloud, he said, going on to describe a number of instances in the 43-page report where government agencies were already using cloud computing.
Now, though he's no longer CIO, Kundra has published an op-ed in the New York Times, continuing to promote cloud computing. "The United States cannot afford to be left behind in the cloud computing revolution," he said. In particular, he criticized the State Department for not embracing the cloud. "The State Department, for instance, has raised concerns about whether the cloud approach introduces security risks, since data is stored off site by private contractors."
The State Department isn't necessarily wrong. Keep in mind that, though Kundra praises companies such as Google and Amazon for having better security personnel than the U.S. government, Amazon -- which recently announced a cloud service specifically for the federal government, joining Google and Microsoft in offering such services -- has suffered several cloud outages in recent months. And Kundra blithely mentions government employees using Dropbox in their personal lives, neglecting to mention security issues in the file transfer service.
Some of this blitheness transfers to Kundra supporters as well. "But if you're nervous about what to offload to the cloud or how to work with cloud vendors, you can work with a consultant to help you make the transition and get you through the rough spots," writes the Ness Software Products Lab Blog. Oh, okay.
Kundra has some good points, such as when he brings up the issue of data sovereignty "One of the critical remaining issues concerning cloud computing is whether cloud data can and should flow between nations and what restrictions should be placed upon it," he writes. "The next step should be the creation of a global Cloud First policy that forces nations to work together and resolve these critical issues."
Still, Kundra's successor Steven VanRoekel, a former Microsoft executive, who reportedly is planning to continue Kundra's cloud strategy, might want to pay attention to the concerns described by some government agencies in a recent New York Times article on the issue (and which may have spawned Kundra's op-ed).
"While this month's AWS outage wasn't nearly as long or severe as the one we saw in April, such disturbances are a potential cause for concern," wrote John Paul Titlow in ReadWriteWeb. "If you think having Reddit or Tumblr go down for an hour can cause a panic, imagine having mission-critical systems at the Pentagon grind to a halt."