Cloud computing may in fact be a misnomer. The term cloud services seems like a more accurate representation of what is being offered and what is in demand. Basically, cloud services can take several forms including:
- Cloud Computing - Use of scalable computing power/resources
- Cloud Storage - Use of storage capabilities on the internet
- Cloud Content Delivery - Use of web services for content delivery at edge locations
That being said, there is a lot of action right now around the use of cloud services in the public sector. The chief concern is security and NIST is actively working to help with this angle.
Also, Vivek Kundra has discussed his top 5 pillars (or focus areas) and one of which is "Lowering Cost of Government Operations". As briefed at the ArchitecturePlus event in April 2009, this pillar can be supported by the use of cloud services. See slides 7 and 8.
Also, we are already starting to see some early adopter success stories. A large early adopter is USA.gov's move to cloud hosting. USA.gov is one of the most visited .gov websites and its move to a cloud model is estimated to save 50% in costs and has not run into the doomsday security scenarios often mentioned in the same breath as cloud hosting. See the article here.
The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, which provides most of the systems used within the Department of Defense, is deploying an internal cloud computing service called the Rapid Access Computing Environment.
Alfred Rivera, director of DISA's Center for Computing Services provides the following justification for why the cloud model works: "Our challenge has always been getting solutions quickly to our customers," Rivera said. Before, military customers would purchase their own system for testing and use only about 15 percent or less of its storage capacity on average. "Not only did I have a long lead time to acquire that system, the customer only needed it for so much, and then the asset lived in the inventory [unused]. RACE drives this idea of a virtual computing environment that can be delivered to a customer in 24 hours, and that allow customers to only use what they need," he said.