GSA's move to the cloud: no turning back

Wednesday - 3/9/2011, 8:08pm EST

Mary Davie & Dave McClure

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The effort to understand cloud computing doesn't stop at the IT shop in your agency.

Managers all over the government are getting "cloud savvy" so they know what they need to know to acquire solutions that will make their agencies run better.

Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioner at GSA's Office of Integrated Technology Services, told me today that learning about the cloud, even though she's not an IT person at the agency, was important.

"It really made sense, from my perspective, to understand this, to understand how these things are defined, how agencies would want to buy the kinds of things they would want to move - or maybe not move - into the cloud."

Not every manager at your agency should become a cloud expert, but cloud isn't just for IT pros any more. "I really think it comes down to your role in the organization," Mary told me today. "If you're an end user, I see it as your ability to translate your requirement into the outcome you're looking for: 'what do I need to do my job?' We should not say, 'we need five servers at this location'; it should be, 'here's what I need.' We should be talking about that."

Dave McClure, GSA's Associate Administrator at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, joined Mary and me in the studio to talk about GSA's efforts to be a leader in Federal cloud deployment. Dave said the vendors who want to sell cloud services to the government are doing some things well, and some things not so well.

"The vendors are certainly the innovators in this space," Dave said. "They're thinking about how this changes their own products and services, or how they can design new products and services in the cloud environment. They're a constant source of innovation, asking 'why can't government do it this way?' That's always refreshing to have."

But they're not perfect. "We still have a lot of vendors that are repackaging their old solutions as cloud solutions. I think it's doing a disservice. If that's the pitch - 'hey, we're cloud' - then all we're doing is creating confusion."

We also talked about the effect the potential government shutdown is having on operations at the agency. You can hear the entire conversation by clicking on the audio player.

Cloud computing is just one of the topics on the agenda at both IRMCO and the Web and New Media Conference, both upcoming from GSA.