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Federal CIO redirects infrastructure dollars to cloud

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra unveils an 'app store' for the government to buy cloud products. Is this a windfall for cloud companies?

In what may be the beginning of a bonanza for the evolving cloud computing marketplace, US Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has officially launched, a site for federal agencies to sign up for and utilize cloud computing resources. Kundra also announced he is streamlining the federal procurement process for IT and committing funds in the Obama administration's 2010 budget towards cloud computing.

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 Kundra placed a heavy emphasis on modernizing infrastructure spending on IT, which he said soaks up $19 billion per year out of the approximately $70 billion federal IT budget. Kundra, speaking at NASA's Ames Center, home to NASA's Nebula cloud computing program, said that the current IT infrastructure was wasteful.

"When a small business can get online in a matter of minutes, why should the government be spending billions upon billions" on traditional data centers, he said. Kundra has said before that he wants to pool government computing resources and buy hosted services whenever possible.

He called current IT practices "duplicative," saying agencies shouldn't be building data centers for things that the private sector gets for free. He cited a proposed blog for the Transportation Security Administration, saying costs for starting the blog amounted to $600,000, including buying and maintaining infrastructure. He said the site would be a way for federal IT procurement to eventually mirror the ease and speed of using IT services in the private sector.

Kundra said the portal currently contains a number of free tools and services users can experiment with, as well as access to resources from a heavyweight list of vendors, including, Google and Microsoft.

When a small business can get online in a matter of minutes, why should the government be spending billions upon billions [on traditional data centers]?
Vivek Kundra, United States Federal CIO,

 In a move that will gladden the hearts of many an IT entrepreneur, Kundra also announced that he is working to change the current procurement rules for IT, which require that each individual agency certify a vendor under the Federal information Security Management Act, among other requirements. The certification is a time consuming and expensive process, and Kundra said he would centralize the process so that, once certified, a company could sell IT to any other federal agency. He did not give any details as to how or when this change would occur.

Amazon AWS is all ears
Amazon spokeswoman Kay Kinton said, via email, that Amazon had been certified to sell its AWS products to the federal government for some time and looked forward to expanding its list of agency customers in the near future. "That said, it's too early to determine how these announcements will impact new AWS services and features," she wrote.

Kundra said that would be a model for future deployment, saying that federal resources as well as public hosted resources would be available through the site, and he was determined to shift the $19 billion of infrastructure spending as far into the cloud as possible. He said the move comes as cloud is showing its maturity and challenged the markets to nail down security issues once and for all, hinting that a federally acceptable secure cloud would find no shortage of cash from the government.

"We recognize that this is not going to happen overnight," said Kundra, acknowledging that his plans are a radical departure from traditional federal planning and procurement of IT. He said that the Obama administration's 2010 budget would have money for "cloud pilot programs" and the 2011 budget would have directives specifically around cloud spending.

Kundra, 34, is very new broom in Washington, the first "Federal CIO", and some have criticized his youth and relative lack of experience. He was appointed by President Obama in March.

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at Contact him at

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