Notes on Cloud Computing

Current ideas and challenges related to cloud computing are discussed in “Technology Strategies Notes” published by the Veteran’s Administration at  www.techstrategies.oit.va.gov/docs/CTSNotes/ TSNoteVol2Issue3March_2015.pdf.

Cloud computing performs tens of trillions of computations per second in consumer-oriented applications by leveraging networks of large groups of servers with specialized connections to spread data-processing chores across them. Apple’s artificial intelligence iPhone assistant Siri is a good example of cloud computing in action.

The benefits for cloud computing are:

  • The ability to reduce costs
  • The ability to run cloud computing data centers more efficiently than local services
  • To enable any device with an internet connection to access files or software
  • To make it easier for cloud systems to upgrade operating systems and applications
  • To enable cloud systems to save data onto multiple servers
  • To enable cloud providing companies with the financial resources to purchase the tools necessary to ensure that networks remain safe

 

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) www.loc.gov/crsinfo has identified several challenges that federal agencies such as the VA may face when attempting to migrate to the cloud. Although cloud providers can facilitate cutting-edge security, the government consistently faces advanced persistent threats to its data.

For example, system-wide security updates are necessary more often for federal agencies than for private sector organizations, data safety and cloud jacking are top concerns in cloud computing, and entrusting a third-party organization with your data can seem risky.

Another issue is that government agencies tend to be hesitant to adopt new technologies which can be due to ingrained cultures and outdated ancillary IT infrastructure. Migration to the cloud can also involve high initial costs, which can serve as a roadblock to realizing efficiencies in the future.

Also, to maximize their Return on Investment (ROI) in cloud computing, organizations need to avoid overpaying vendors by determining the right package of delivery and service models for their business line.

Measuring ROI can be particularly challenging when it comes to cloud computing so industry experts recommend focusing on overall value rather than dollars. Factors that can provide soft ROI include increased agility, flexibility, scalability, improved processes, streamlined development platforms, and more strategic use of IT resources.

The Office of Technology Strategies (TS) interacts with other VA offices but also with other multiple stakeholders within the Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) www.oit.va.gov. For information on open data, askTS@va.gov www.techstrategies.oit.va.gov/docs_ctsnotes.asp

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