>A Turning Point for the Government Cloud

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Los Angeles is moving to the cloud, according to Public CIO Magazine March 2010, and “they are the first government of its scale to chose Gmail for the enterprise.”

“It turned out that Washington D.C., was using Gmail for disaster recovery and giving employees the option to use it as their primary e-mail.” But LA is implementing Gmail for more than 30,000 city employees (including police and fire departments) as well as planning to move to Google Apps productivity suite for everything from “calendar, word processing, document collaboration, Web site support, video and chat capabilities, data archiving, disaster recovery and virus protection. “

CTO Randi Levin is leading the charge on the move to cloud computing, and is taking on concerns about cost, data rights, and security.

  • On Cost: “The city estimated $5.5 million in hard savings form the Google adoption, and an additional $20 million savings in soft costs due to factors like better productivity.”
  • On Data Rights: Nondisclosure agreement with Google includes that the data belong to the city “in perpetuity,” so “if the city wants to switch to another vendor after the contract ends, the city will be able to recall its archived data.”
  • On Security: “Google is building a segregated ‘government cloud,” which will be located on the continental U.S. and the exact location will remain unknown to those outside Google. The data will be “sharded”—“shredded into multiple pieces and stored on different servers. Finally, Google will be responsible for “unlimited” damages if there’s a breach of their servers.

LA conducted an request for proposal for software-as-a-service (SaaS) or a hosted solution and received responses for 10 vendors including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Google was selected by an Intradepartmental group of IT managers and a five year contract issued for $17 million.

Currently (since January), LA is conducting a Gmail pilot with about 10% of its city employees, and implementation for the city is slated for mid-June.

Additionally, LA is looking into the possibility of either outsourcing or putting under public-private partnership the city’s servers.

And the interest in government cloud isn’t limited to LA; it is catching on with Google Apps pilots or implementations in places like Orlando, Florida and within 12 federal agencies.

Everyone is afraid to be the first in with a major cloud computing implementation, but LA is moving out and setting the standard that we will all soon be following. It’s not about Google per se, but about realizing the efficiencies and productivity enhancement that cloud computing provides.

>Backup and Recovery and Enterprise Architecture

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Anyone who has lost information on their computer knows how important backing up your computer work is, and organizations spend large sums of money to back up corporate information assets.

ComputerWorld, 4 February 2008, reports that “Corporate IT Warms Up to Online Backup Services.”

It used to be everyone backed up their own data, but now things are changing with major storage vendors entering the online backup market.

Now the benefits are beginning to outweigh the costs:

  • Cost savings on specially skilled personnel and equipment for backup and storage administration function
  • Productivity gains from outsourcing the systems administration and backup
  • Unlimited corporate storage capacity

The information security officer at the University of San Francisco states: “If you asked me three or four years ago [about backup], the economics would say, ‘build it yourself.’ However, as storage vendors enter the online storage business and work to address IT concerns [such as pricing and security], ‘I can’t imagine anyone doing it themselves.’”

Gartner says “the technology is slowly becoming more attractive to large companies, thanks to move into the hosted storage business by EMC and storage and backup rivals such as IBM, Iron Mountain Inc, Symantec Corp., and Seagate Technology LLC.”

IDC predicts that sales of hosted backup storage services will reach $715 million in 2011, up from $235 million in 2007.”

Vendors are moving quickly to address the following issues:

  • Acceptable pricing
  • Security including encryption and authentication
  • Bandwidth

So are hosted backup services worth the cost?

The vice president of operations and compliance officer of Lisle Savings Bank says “I’m not going to say it cheap; it’s not. [But] we felt what are paying for is really insurance against losing data. I used to cringe when anybody deleted a file and I had to find the tape.”

The IT director of a Fort Worth, Texas law firm noted that “the move to the hosted service quickly blunted management concerns about disaster recovery in the tornado-prone area. The online option also ensures that backup tapes will not have to be stored by a vendor that could carelessly allow them to be lost or stolen…It’s the wave of the future, if it’s not already here.”

From a User-centric Enterprise Architecture perspective, we must ensure the security of business and technical assets. This includes the confidentiality, availability, integrity, and privacy of corporate information. One way to protect vital information assets is through robust information backup and recovery services.