NIST defining steps to cloud computing

Friday - 11/5/2010, 7:06am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

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By Max Cacas
Reporter
Federal News Radio

As the lead agency when it comes to federal cloud computing, agency chief information officers are counting on the National Institute of Standards and Technology to help establish the roadmap into the cloud.

Dawn Leaf, NIST's senior executive for Cloud Computing, announced that the agency's Information Technology Lab (ITL) now has a cloud computing test bed.

"The internal name for the cloud computing simulation project is Koala," she said during the second NIST Cloud Computing Forum and Workshop in Gaithersburg, Md. "The objective is to assess and characterize resource allocation algorithms within a public infrastructure-as-a-service cloud model."

She added they are hoping to have the first results of tests using Koala by early next year. The goal is to smooth the path of agencies into the cloud.

"We listened to the CIO community, and the message was very clear, and I don't think it will surprise anyone who was here today," Leaf said. "The message was, 'We need guidance, and we need it right now.'"

To that end, federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra's keynote to the cloud conference tied together some recently reported headlines regarding efforts to fulfill the government's cloud computing needs.

"Three major companies, Google, Microsoft and IBM earlier this week, all have stepped up to the challenge, and all have launched .gov clouds," Kundra said. "They have addressed one of the biggest problems that the federal government has in migration to the cloud, which is security."

Kundra said the companies' platforms are providing cloud services in the context of federal security requirements.

Kundra added the General Services Administration late in October awarded a blanket purchase agreement to 11 vendors for infrastructure-as-a-service. He said the BPA will let agencies begin the early phases of migrating to the cloud.

Security is one of six aspects of the cloud computing roadmap expected to be discussed during the second day of the NIST conference today. Cite Furlani, director of NIST's Information Technology Laboratory is hoping to leverage ITL's expertise in two realms of security in their work on the cloud.

"In cybersecurity…where our research focus has been, and continues to be is in key management, visualization and authentication, all underpinnings that are necessary for a robust cloud computing infrastructure and identity management," Furlani said. "We've been working in that area for decades, building on the work we've done on how we identify a person through biometrics, but understanding who you're communicating with across networks."

In addition, Furlani said ITL is working to integrate the needs of the advanced Internet protocol Version 6 (IPv6) into the cloud computing standards. And finally, NIST is working on a method allowing it experts to use metrics and other performance criteria to test conclusively whether the cloud computing standards they are formulating actually work.

"It's definitely our unique role and that's where we function and contribute," she said.

The NIST Cloud Computing Forum and Workshop wraps up today at the Gaithersburg Holiday Inn with individual workshop sessions on six key cloud computing topics.

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