American and British governments moving toward cloud, but obstacles remain

April 17, 2012

In recent months, both the U.S. and U.K. governments have made strides toward shifting their operations into the cloud. Just as it does for large enterprises in the private sector, cloud computing has the potential to offer significant benefits to governments. However, as several reports have detailed, both institutions face obstacles that make complete adoption a slow process.

United Kingdom set to premiere G-Cloud

Perhaps the most significant recent development in this area is the news that the U.K. government will launch G-Cloud at the end of April or beginning of May of this year. The G-Cloud Programme is intended to introduce cloud-based information and communication technology (ICT) into government departments, as well as offering these resources to local authorities and eventually the public sector. Numerous government agencies play a part in G-Cloud, including the Ministry of Justice and Home Office.

One of the key features of the G-Cloud is its CloudStore. There, visitors will be able to search through more than 1,700 varieties of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and others.

Alan Priestly, writing for ZD Net UK, argues that G-Cloud represents an industry-leading IT initiative, and predicts that many other enterprises will follow the project's progress if it proves successful. He goes so far as to suggest that it could potentially represent a "landmark moment in the evolution of cloud computing."

There are, however, already signs of controversy. Most notably, G-Cloud's former director, Chris Chant, recently resigned his post, and has since issued several statements critical of the government's management of the project. CRN UK reports that, among other charges, he highlighted the government's poor record of working with smaller IT suppliers.

Cloud computing and the U.S. government

While there is no American counterpart to G-Cloud, there has been increasing movement toward adopting cloud-based services in the U.S. federal government. Government Computer News' Paul McCloskey notes that the past 12 months have seen various agencies transition their IT infrastructures to the cloud.

While this move has the potential to improve government efficiency and save money, Richard Falkenrath, speaking to GovInfoSecurity, recently pointed out that government policies limiting agencies to using domestic servers may prove counterproductive, driving up the costs of cloud computing.

However, this policy is not without reason. Expanding government infrastructure into the cloud carries significant security risks, and these risks increase if the servers used are located outside the country. Even domestic cloud usage carries risk, requiring cautious adoption of the cloud for sensitive government data.

-McAfee Cloud Security