It's not necessarily easy, though.
First, a reminder that cloud computing is real. There are physical servers in physical server farms. It's important to remember that The Cloud is made up of data centers running 24/7/365. There are racks and racks of blades, power supplies, spare parts, monitoring tools and data center staff. These servers and computing capacity are shared by The Cloud tenants. The Cloud is excess computing capacity from the likes of Amazon and Google. The Cloud is not frozen water crystals or fluffy cotton puffs. It's not magic. The Cloud is physical. Learn more about The Cloud here.
This is important because issues with cloud computing are real, too. And real is the backbone of my wish list for government cloud computing. I wish for
Analysis of the risks. Some security experts are very concerned about the security of cloud computing. Casey Coleman, CIO of the General Services Administration, said, "Something like 45 percent of the IT portfolio is ranked at a FISMA certification level of low. What that means is that those applications and that data are candidates for running on some sort of commercial or hybrid cloud service." [Read more from Coleman in Federal Computer Week.] So, what can securely be run in a cloud environment? What can't be? And no cheating on the analysis because the idea of the cloud makes you nervous. Be real.
Analysis of the costs. It makes intuitive sense that money can be saved by sharing computing resources, but the devil is always in the details. Consumers think that software and storage is free--Facebook, Gmail, Google Docs--but they pay by viewing advertisements. Will some applications and storage be on a commercial cloud? Will government data centers shut down? Will they connect and share computing power to become a gov-cloud? Will government share applications with commercial and retail tenants? What would it cost? What about software licensing? Cloud-wide software licensing agreements? Money is real, too.
Useful cloud services. I want to improve accessibility of content by having captioning, live captioning, and translation services on demand. I want a government-wide blogging platform like Blogger for Government. The Department of Defense is already doing this in the dot-mil domain--DoD Live, Army Live, Air Force Live, Coast Guard Live--using a common Wordpress install. I want to be able to transfer large files securely from agency to agency using a cloud FTP server. I want a platform solution for posting multimedia and conducting surveys. I want easy access to website analytics--and, better yet, a way to compare the traffic data across agencies. I want government-wide options for search, dialogue, white pages, email, relationship management, instant messaging. And, I want the service whether it's available on the GSA schedule or via another purchasing option. No reason to be parochial in The Cloud.
What I want from the government cloud. Quicker--like "just in time"--purchase and implementation of tools that are being used in government. Removing roadblocks and silos that make government function like hundreds or even thousands of governments instead of one. Each of these mini-governments have their own ways to buy, their own ideas of security, their own interpretations of the Privacy Act of 1974, their own cookie policies, their own implementations of accessibility guidelines, and their individual risk tolerances. This makes sense for individual agencies who know their particular niches, but it makes no sense to the people--businesses, NGOs, staff, citizens--who need a simple answer and a single conduit to find it. Last, and not the least, I want citizens to control their own identities and to manage their relationship with government not on a per-agency basis but in a system that recognizes that they are whole people. This would make a real difference in the way government does business.
Now, keeping it real, what are YOUR wishes for the government cloud?