Federal Cloud Computing Challenges Part 1: Cloud Deployment Models
For information technology workers in the government sector, the cloud computing initiative is no new news, though understanding the unique implications of cloud computing challenges may be. The goals of the initiative were to leverage federal cloud computing in order to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and cut costs for the federal government. This without a doubt meant that massive changes had to take place in government it solutions. Data consolidation has taken off, as the Obama administration aims to cut the federal budget through the consolidation of 800 of the government’s data centers by 2015, a move that is projected to save more than $3 billion while simultaneously freeing up acres of real estate.
Throughout the development of this massive initiative, concerns that are unique to federal agencies have started to become clear to information technology professionals. In a statement made by Dr. David McClure, Associate Administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technology, at an April 2011 Senate Subcommittee Hearing, McClure stated: there continues to be a need for more thorough understanding of cloud computing deployment models, unique needs related to the security of cloud computing, and data management challenges.
This three post series will focus on highlighting the concerns within each of those three umbrella categories of concern. For now, lets talk about the cloud computing deployment models.
Cloud computing is defined to have several deployment models, each of which has specific trade-offs for agencies which are migrating services and operations to cloud based environments. Because of the different characteristics and trade-offs of the various cloud computing deployment models, it is important the agency IT professionals have a clear understanding of their agency’s specific needs as well as how the various systems can help them meet these needs.
Cloud Computing Deployment Models:
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises
In general, federal agencies and departments opt for private clouds when sensitive or mission-critical information is involved. The private cloud allows for increased security, reliability, performance, and service. Yet, like other types of clouds, it maintains the ability to scale quickly and only pay for what is used when provided by a third party, making it economical as well.
One example of a private cloud computing deployment model that has been implemented in the federal government relatively recently was implemented by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which allows researchers to access and utilize servers on demand.
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
The community cloud deployment model is ideal and optimized for agencies or independent organizations that have shared concerns, and therefore need access to shared and mutual records and other types of stored information.
Examples might include a community dedicated to compliance considerations or a community focused on security requirements policy.
The general public provisions the cloud infrastructure for open use. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or some combination of them. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.
The public cloud deployment model have the unique advantage of being significantly more secure than accessing information via the Internet and tend to cost less than private clouds because services are more commoditized.
Research by the 1105 Government Information Group found that federal agencies interested in public clouds are most commonly interested in the following four functions:
- Social Networking
One example of a public cloud deployment model based solution is the Treasury Department, which has moved its website Treasury.gov to a public cloud using Amazon’s EC2 cloud service to host the site and its applications. The site includes social media attributes, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter which allows for rapid and effective communication with constituents.
The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud deployment models (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).
Large portions of agencies that have already switched some processes over to cloud based computing solutions have utilized hybrid cloud options. Few enterprises have the ability to switch over all of their IT services at one time, the hybrid option allows for a mix of on base and cloud options which provide an easier transition.
NASA is one example of a federal agency who is utilizing the Hybrid Cloud deployment model. Its Nebula open-source cloud computing project uses a private cloud for research and development as well as a public cloud to shared datasets with external partners and the public.
The hybrid cloud computing deployment model option has also proven to be the choice option for state and local governments as well, with states like Michigan and Colorado having already declared their cloud computing intentions with plans illustrating hybrid cloud deployment models.
Although there are many types of cloud computing deployment models, there probably is one that is right for every environment. Its just a matter of evaluating needs and circumstances to understand which one is the right fit.
Please stay tuned for the rest of this three part blog series as we look at the other challenges facing cloud computing.
The concerns mentioned in this blog series were attained from a quote given by Dr. David McClure, Associate Administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technology, at an April 2011 Senate Subcommittee Hearing. All definitions for the different cloud computing deployment models are the official definitions adhered to by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).