The Congressional Cloud Computing Caucus and Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) today announced an inaugural report, “Don’t Be a Box Hugger,” which provides the most comprehensive visibility into the state of business transformation via cloud computing in the Federal government. Based on interviews with Federal CIOs, CFOs, and senior Federal IT officials, the report illustrates the substantial progress agencies have made in adopting cloud solutions since the Federal government unveiled its Cloud First policy in 2011. President Obama’s FY 2016 budget request would invest $7.34 billion of the Federal IT budget – 8.5 percent of all IT spending – in provisioned services, such as cloud, on par with leading private-sector companies.


Pioneers, Fence Sitters, and Box Huggers

With the president’s budget request calling for an IT budget of $86.4 billion for FY 2016, the Federal government is the largest buyer of IT in the world. And, the cloud market is $176 billion globally, according to IT market analyst firm Gartner — making it the fastest growing segment in global IT. Half of Federal agencies have already moved their email systems to the cloud. Looking at the next wave, Federal cloud adoption is divided into three tribes. Pioneers, such as ATFE, Commerce, DoD, EPA, FCC, GSA, HHS, NASA, NRC, SEC, and USDA are blazing the trail to the cloud – and have important lessons to share in terms of how to build the cloud business case and ease cultural transitions.

The majority of Federal agencies are currently fence sitters — dipping a toe into the cloud, but not yet ready to make a mainstream cloud transition. The study also identifies box huggers, an anti-cloud group that wants to own their own hardware and software – and their cloud anxieties.

The report finds that the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) — a government-wide cloud security standards initiative  — has made good progress in certifying commercial and government Cloud Service Provider’s (CSP) offerings. But, it concludes that security, RoI justification, and cultural barriers remain the biggest obstacles to mainstream government cloud adoption.


Statistical Meteorology

The report cites a number of Federal market-framing statistics from MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT:

  • Feds could save $18.9 billion annually by migrating services and applications to the cloud
  • Twenty-five percent of Federal agencies deliver some IT services via the cloud
  • Only 20% of Feds believe that security offered by CSPs is sufficient
  • Some 44% of Feds say they remain “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” turning IT services and applications over to cloud providers


FedRAMP – A Must Win in Uncle Sam’s Cloud Transition

Today, four years into the FedRAMP process, there are a total of 35 approved secure CSP offerings, according to the FedRAMP OnRAMP, a public private collaboration to provide FedRAMP transparency. CSPs are taking too long to move through the certification process – and there is confusion about how to accelerate that progress. Industry and government are pointing at one another – and more collaboration is required. This is not about the FedRAMP Program Management Office (PMO) — the market needs enhanced public-private collaboration to move the ball forward.


Cloud Confusion

The report reveals confusion in the Federal government’s planned cloud investment. According to the White House FY 2016 budget request, the Federal government will spend 8.5 percent, or $7.34 billion, of its IT budget on provisioned services, such as cloud – the question, does provisioned services include telecommunications spend? The FY 2016 budget request numbers run counter to the cloud spending projection on OMB’s IT Dashboard – which pegs projected spending at $2.1 billion.


Three Takeaways

The report maps three recommendations to help accelerate the Federal government’s business transition via cloud computing:

  • Tell the Truth: OMB should set and enforce deadlines as well as increase transparency on actual cloud spend
  • Change the Game: Provide additional funding for FedRAMP, streamline acquisition and budgeting, provide incentives and reward success, as well as nurture public private collaboration
  • Think Bigger: Uncle Sam has already picked the low-hanging cloud fruit, and agencies need to identify where cloud solutions can help save money, speed development, improve services, and increase mission effectiveness

The Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group report is underwritten by Amazon Web Services, Booz Allen Hamilton, Dell, MeriTalk, and Microsoft. The underwriters had the following to say regarding the state of Federal cloud adoption:

“Calendar year 2014 introduced numerous advances with regard to tracking compliance across CSPs, and instituting mechanisms to accelerate the adoption of cloud computing in the Federal government,” said Munjeet Singh, Principal, Emerging Technologies, Dynamic Infrastructure, Booz Allen Hamilton. “The cloud landscape also grew even more complex with new CSPs, and the rise of emerging technologies to include containers and micro services. Clear leaders surfaced to take advantage of these new capabilities and offerings, and have established best practices for others to replicate. This report essentially provides a field guide summarizing these case studies and providing recommendations to navigate this increasingly complex landscape.”

“The emerging trend toward multi-cloud environments makes it even more important for agencies considering cloud adoption to perform a comprehensive assessment of their service requirements,” said Sanjeev Nehra, CTO, Dell Services Federal Government. “This ‘service-centric’ strategy helps agencies avoid the pitfall of ‘cloud sprawl,’ whereby disparate cloud environments are deployed with no common oversight or framework.”

“With Tony Scott, the new Federal CIO, at the White House and continued interest from the Hill in changing the failing status quo in Federal IT investments, we see real opportunity ahead for the acceleration of business transformation via cloud computing,” said Steve O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk. “We need to accelerate the FedRAMP process, clarify Cloud First policy guidance, and encourage best practice exchange and collaboration among pioneers and fence sitters. Candidly, the box hugger phenomenon is likely a generational obstacle that time will address.

“The Federal government needs to be transparent about how much it really plans to spend on cloud and what it really costs for commercial CSPs to play via certifications such as FedRAMP,”


This article was originally posted “Congressional Cloud Computing  Caucus Publishes Inaugural Report” from Cloud Strategy Magazine.