2011 – the year of cloud computing?

Sunday - 12/26/2010, 3:12pm EST

Cloud computing began to take center stage in the federal IT community during the last few months of 2010. And Ed Meagher thinks that trend will continue in 2011. Meagher is the former deputy chief information officer at the Veterans Affairs Department and the Interior Department. He’s now vice president of health care strategy at CSC.

He also tells Federal News Radio he thinks cloud computing will be a game changer in the years ahead.

“People have heard cloud computing for years, and now all of a sudden this is money,” Meagher said.

Multiple agencies made a serious push toward cloud computing this year including USDA, GSA, and the Treasury Department. USDA and GSA both announced plans to move their email to the cloud while Treasury moved its website, Treasury.gov, completely into the cloud. It’s the first cabinet-level agency to do so. At the same time, the White House announced a cloud-first policy for agencies.

But security issues remain a big concern for agencies. CSO Online recently listed five cloud security issues it sees for 2011, including the increased use of smart phones to access data, the need for better access control, compliance concerns, the risk of multiple cloud tenants, and the emergence of cloud standards.

VA is one of the agencies struggling with cloud security issues. Roger Baker, the agency’s CIO, fully admits that he must find a way to strike the proper balance between use and security because there is a growing call for cloud-based tools.

“The government by itself can’t keep up with Yahoo!, Google, Apple and others who are creating great applications for medical usage. We have to figure out how to embrace those and at the same time ensure that we are providing privacy and health information protections that we are committed to doing. These are great tools for patient care, and right now my position as the CIO has to be ‘you can’t use them.’”

Baker said he is looking into how to make that balance work but still has not found the right solution to this problem.