Berkeley National Lab riding the cloud to more services

Wednesday - 6/1/2011, 4:57pm EDT

!ASK_THE_CIO_06-02-2011.mp3

Download mp3

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the Energy Department's facilities, didn't move 5,000 employees to a cloud computing services provider of email because its previous system wasn't working.

Rather, Rosio Alvarez, Berkeley's chief information officer, said the added functionality, including the ability for employees to access their calendars through a mobile device, became the key factor in making the switch.

Alvarez, who has been CIO for four years, said the lab will save about $2 million over the next four years because of the move to Google's Gmail in the cloud. But she said the savings are the icing on the cake.

"The one challenge we faced was the culture shift for my staff in supporting this new environment," she said. "We are a part of the Google early testers program so we get previews of what's coming down the pike for new functionality. It's a little difficult for people who supported the help desk because they are used to a long and drawn out process for any systems enhancements. With Google and most cloud providers, new functionality is rolling out weekly and that makes some people nervous or a little unstable."

Alvarez's staff will have to get used to the rate of change. She said she is considering moving other applications to the cloud in the near future.

The first application under consideration is to move Berkeley's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to a cloud provider.

"We currently are using PeopleSoft and it's been that way for 10 years plus so we are at a decision point, where we either migrate to the next version or do something else," she said. "We're open to all possibilities and are exploring the solutions space out there. We have talked to one vendor which is providing a software-as-a-service solution for ERP and others who may not be there yet but have interesting ways to provide a better ERP system."

Alvarez said Berkeley will release a request for proposal in the coming weeks for a new ERP system.

Berkeley also is considering moving its high performance computing capabilities to the Web. Alvarez said the lab sees about a 20 percent growth rate in the need for high performance computing capabilities annually.

Alvarez said the need for high-performance computing capabilities puts a demand on their data center and requires her office to buy new equipment more often than it would like.

"We are looking at ways to use cloud offerings to provide those cycles to researchers rather than bring in more hardware," she said. "We've looked at two or three providers to see if we can off load some growth to them."

(Copyright 2011 by Federal News Radio. All Rights Reserved.)