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Savings offer US government cloud incentive

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While most people in the know have long since recognised cloud computing to be the future of information technology, there are a variety of barriers and obstacles that have to be negotiated before it becomes as prominent a part of people’s lives as a technology we take for granted, such as the Internet. Two immediately come to mind.

Firstly, there is the natural conservatism that we human-beings seem to have as a default function. The average punter in the street will not sign up to cloud computing until it becomes a regular part of everyday conversation, and businesses will stick steadfastly to their existing set-ups until very explicit benefits of cloud computing are demonstrably indicated. Of course there will always be some enthusiasts, visionaries and early adopters who see the value of the cloud long before the general consensus jumps on board, but the history of technology tells us that the process of the majority getting on board with a new innovation can be a laborious one.

Businesses will stick steadfastly to their existing set-ups until very explicit benefits of cloud computing are demonstrably indicated.

Secondly, there is that perennial issue which makes the world go round – economics. The bottom line is that no-one will sign up to cloud computing, particularly among business and large private sector organisations, until it is in their financial interest to do so. Many businesses and government entities have naturally made huge investment in existing technology, and they are not going to give that up until they’re 100% certain that it is genuinely obsolete, or at least until they see some very strong benefits from doing so.

However, a recently published study suggests that the cloud computing ‘logjam’ might be about to be eased somewhat. The study in question suggests that adoption of cloud offerings — particularly as a platform for service middleware and application development tools — can make a significant contribution to savings the US government money. It is indicated by the study that cloud computing could potentially cut U.S. government application development costs by as much as $20.5 billion per annum.

The survey in question was carried out with 153 federal IT executives by MeriTalk, a public-private partnership for advancing government information technology structure. The study was underwritten by Red Hat, Inc., thus underlining its credibility, and calculates that Platform as a Service (PaaS) could cut federal IT costs by approximately one-third.

The US federal government is in fact a very large producer of computer software, in order to operate its various departments. More than three-quarters of the respondents to the survey stated that developing new applications is absolutely essential to the day-to-day running of their departments.

The report was so critical of the existing IT arrangements in US federal government departments that it described them as “fundamentally broken”, with the study citing evidence from the General Accounting Office which indicates that the government spends 70% – $56 billion – of its IT budget on care for legacy systems, which move at a “glacial pace”. Naturally this translates into higher costs for government departments, which the software application development cycle taking an average of three and a half years. In further damning information from the study, 41% of the federal IT managers who responded stated that their agencies’ software and applications need to either upgraded or completely replaced.

As well as painting a damning picture of the IT systems currently in operation in the US government, this study also provides extremely significant news for the future of cloud computing, demonstrating quite clearly that the cloud can offer huge savings to big organisations; exactly the sort of incentive which is required to catalyse the cloud revolution.

While those in the know rightly recognise that saving money is but a mere part of the total palette of opportunities which is provided by the embryonic technology, economics usually dictates the uptake of any viable medium. For example, it is often asserted that Betamax video was superior to the VHS format which ultimately won the videocassette war, but eventually lost out to its competitor. Similarly, the Spectrum home computer cleaned up in the European market despite more sophisticated offerings elsewhere, simply due to its price point.

The fact that we are now beginning to see tangible evidence of the economic benefits of the cloud will only speed up its widespread adoption.

Both businesses and private sector organisations alike want to see a bottom line delivery from any major investment or any significant change to their operating procedures. The fact that we are now beginning to see tangible evidence of the economic benefits of the cloud will only speed up its widespread adoption.