What does Gov 2.0 have to do with cloud computing?

Last week, Gartner analyst Andrea DiMaio rendered his opinion of what Gov 2.0 has to do with cloud computing. In his post, he writes that “ironically, the terms “cloud” and “open” do not even fit very well with each other,” with respect to auditability and compliance issues.

I’m not convinced. Specifically, consider open source cloud computing at NASA Nebula and the OpenStack collaboration with Rackspace and other industry players, or Eucalyptus.For more, read my former colleague Carl Brooks at SearchCloudComputing for extensive reporting in those areas. Or watch NASA CTO for IT Chris Kemp below:

Aside from the work that CloudAudit.org is doing to address cloud computing, after reading DiMaio’s post, I was a bit curious about how familiar he is with certain aspects of what the U.S. federal government is doing in this area. After all, Nebula is one of the pillars of NASA’s open government plan.

Beyond that relationship, the assertion that responsibility for cloud computing deployment investment resides in the Office for Citizen Engagement might come as a surprise to the CIO of GSA. McClure certainly is more than conversant with the technology and its implications — but I have a feeling Casey Coleman holds the purse strings and accountability for implementation. Watch the GSA’s RFP for email in the cloud for the outcome there.

To Adriel Hampton’s point on DiMaio’s post about cloud and Gov 2.0 having “nothing to do with one another,” I’d posit that that’s overly reductive. He’s right that cloud in of itself doesn’t equal Gov 2.0. It’s a tool that enables it.

Moving Recovery.gov to Amazon’s cloud, for instance, is estimated to save the federal government some $750,000 over time and gives people the means to be “citizen inspector generals.” (Whether they use them is another matter.) Like other tools borne of the Web 2.0 revolution, cloud has the potential enable more agile, lean government that enables better outcomes for citizens, particularly with respect to cost savings, assuming those compliance concerns can be met.

The latter point is why Google Apps receiving FISMA certification was significant, and why Microsoft has been steadily working towards it for its Azure platform. As many observers know, Salesforce.com has long since signed many federal customers, including the U.S. Census.

DiMaio’s cynicism regarding last week’s Summit is interesting, although it’s not something I can spend a great deal of time in addressing. Would you tell the Gov 2.0 community to stop coming together at camps, forums, hearings, seminars, expos, summits, conferences or local government convocations because an analyst told you to? That’s not a position I’m coming around to any time soon, not least as I look forward to heading to Manor, Texas next week.

In the end, cloud computing will be one more tool that enables government to deliver e-services to citizens in a way that was simply not possible before. If you measure Gov 2.0 by how technology is used to arrive at better outcomes, the cloud is part of the conversation.

[*Note Gartner’s reply in the comments regarding the resolution of the magic quadrant suit. -Ed.]

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

2 thoughts on “What does Gov 2.0 have to do with cloud computing?

  1. Thanks for your views Alex.

    I suspect I have not been clear enough about what I meant by “open” and “cloud”. I do not mean “open” as in “open source”. As surprisingly as it may look to you, I do follow in great detail what the US Feds and others are doing on the cloud, talk to US clients on a daily basis, and spend a fair amount of time in the US (next month, three weeks around our Symposium in Orlando).
    What I meant by contrasting “open” and “cloud” was the fact that cloud infrastructures, platforms and applications are mostly proprietary, even if they use a fair amount of open source. It is interesting you mention NEBULA, as this is a government implementation. You may have mentioned DISA’s RACE as well. But how many government organizations will be in control of their own “cloud”? In most cases, cloud services will be provided by “vendors”, and in fact one of the toughest problems is going to be portability from one infrastructure to another.

    I am surprised – as Adriel was too – that you confuse cloud, which is a computing model, with gov 2.0 (or open government) which are endeavors that can be implemented using the cloud or something else. Incidentally I am not sure about how any of your points on recovery.gov or google supports your position that gov 2.0 and cloud are related more tightly than I (and apparently others) believe.

    I do read your posts with great interest and will continue doing so. I never meant to be dismissive when saying that “government as a platform” is not a terribly useful concept or that I’d rather not put cloud and gov 2.0 in the same slide. I do provide my viewpoint, which is personal and not Gartner’s as our blog policy clearly highlights.

    This being said, I am a bit disappointed about some of your statements, such as “I’m a bit curious about how familiar he is with certain aspects of what the U.S. federal government is actually doing in this area” or “a Gartner analyst casting stones across the Atlantic”.
    Also I would suggest you get some up-to-date information about your link to the ZL Technologies case, which has been dismissed last May by a district court judge (see http://www.research-live.com/news/legal/judge-dismisses-libel-complaint-over-gartners-magic-quadrant-report/4002616.article). As my colleague Tom Bittman’s blog post that you have also linked, we all take our integrity very seriously, and it is part of our personal values.

    Believe me, I have no intention to curb the enthusiasm of those who want to attend countless gov 2.0 events. In an older post I said that it is time for the rest of the public sector to start using this tool (we agree, gov 2.0 can be seen as a tool) and for this to happen I suspect that gov 2.0 professionals (i.e. those running the show today) might need to take a step back.

    So, in conclusion, I maintain that cloud has nothing to do with gov 2.0, unless the fact that both are pretty much hyped. The service that we try to provide to our clients and – through blogs – the public at large includes helping them dispel some of the hype and get to the chase of the (indeed real) value both phenomena can deliver.

    1. Thank you for your reply, Andrea. I appreciate the link on the resolution of suit and noted as much in the body of the post in an edit, and I understand why you might be disappointed in the reference.

      Your comment about integrating the tools, concepts and themes of open government into all government events puts your statement in context.

      As I’ve watched the space evolve over the past several years, I’ve come to believe that the unconferences and camps, in particular, provide environments for citizens, developers, media and public servants to interact and cross-pollinate in ways that classic government IT events have not.

      My reference to stones stemmed from an impression left by some of critiques that haven’t been as constructive as Luke has pointed out at Govfresh before. Generally, I’ve found your analysis thoughtful and informative, particularly with respect to the progress of international e-government initiatives or the European states, which do not get the attention they deserve here.

      Your reviews of “Open Government,” in particular, were more deep and insightful than I’ve seen elsewhere.

      My thinking here was was to highlight that there are indeed government clouds that are both open and real, beyond hype, and that do not leverage the public cloud model, which you have advocated for in your official capacity.

      The public cloud computing model does offer a number of advantages but will not be easily adapted to for enterprises in highly regulated industries, which does, as you know, includes most government entities.

      The definitions for Gov 2.0 vary from analysts to citizen to media to evangelist, so it’s difficult to definitively say what is and isn’t qualifiable. Under Gartner’s definition, cloud may not qualify – but neither you nor I can own the conversation on what Gov 2.0 means.
      None of us do, individually, really.

      The community does. Usage drives meaning, which I alluded to in my piece On Language: Putting Government 2.0 in context.

      My point in highlighting Recovery.gov is that publishing public data online using that technology for the scrutiny of citizens both provides the opportunity for better outcomes and empowers watchdogs to exercise scrutiny over data quality, format and apply it to results. You can see that truth in scientific inquiry, with Nebula at the JPL too.

      I agree that there has been a great deal of hype around both Gov 2.0 and cloud, and recognize that you’ve taken on the difficult task of debunking and dispelling marketing and PR. Your point about interoperability is important, as is the related issue of data or VM portability.

      I do not, however, agree that the two have nothing to do with one another, any more than it makes sense to dismiss any role for tech tools like mobile technology, social media or the Internet itself.

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