US govt can help encourage cloud adoption

The government can help create cloud security standards and can buy more cloud services, the report says

The U.S. government can help grow the nation's cloud computing market by assisting private companies in the development of cloud security standards and by encouraging cloud providers to allow data portability among them, a new tech industry report recommended.

The U.S. government can also "lead by example" by stepping up its use of cloud-based services and by revamping its procurement and budget processes to encourage agencies to buy cloud services, acording to the report, released Tuesday by the TechAmerica Foundation, the education arm of the TechAmerica trade group.

Increased use of cloud services has "immense potential to improve our global competitiveness" and improve government efficiency, Michael Capellas, chairman and CEO of cloud provider VCE, said during a press conference.

Many of the TechAmerica cloud commission's recommendations focus on how to establish trust in cloud computing services and how to encourage transparent practices among cloud providers.

"It's absolutely essential, as a first step in accelerating cloud adoption and driving U.S. leadership in cloud innovation, that the cloud earn the trust of its users," said James Sheaffer, president of Computer Sciences' North American public sector group. "They have to be confident in the security, the privacy, and the availability of service in the cloud."

The U.S. government and private cloud providers need to work together to create international standards for securing and accrediting cloud services, Sheaffer said. Tech companies also need to speed up development of identity management and authentication services, so that cloud users are confident in their data security, he said.

The U.S. Congress should pass comprehensive privacy legislation that protects users of cloud services, and it should enact a national law requiring companies with data breaches to notify affected customers, added Dan Reed, corporate vice president for the technology policy group at Microsoft.

"Timely information drives out fear and catalyzes rapid responses," Reed said.

Cloud providers should also be transparent about how they manage their customers' data, Reed said. The reluctance of some companies and agencies to move to cloud services comes from the fear of others handling their data, he said.

Cloud providers should disclose information about portability, interoperability, security, certifications, performance and reliability, Reed said.

About 70 companies and 300 people participated in drafting the TechAmerica report, accompanied by a cloud computing buyers guide, aimed at government agencies.

Government adoption of cloud services is the most important tech issue facing the U.S. Congress, said Dan Burton, senior vice president of global public operations at Salesforce.com. Government agencies need to look to the cloud to save money, he said.

With lawmakers looking to cut the U.S. government budget deficit, "it's clear that federal IT budgets are going to be under enormous pressure," Burton said in an interview. "The spending debate creates a perfect storm for the government to move to the cloud."

The TechAmerica cloud recommendations came on the same day that the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) also released a paper calling on lawmakers to avoid regulating cloud services.

"Because cloud computing is not a single technology or business model, for policy making purposes, there is no such thing as 'the cloud,'" the SIIA paper reads. "The basic conclusion of this paper is that, to provide for the safe and rapid growth of cloud computing, there is no need for cloud-specific legislation or regulations, and in fact, such actions could impede the potential of cloud computing."

Last week, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) released its own recommendations on how U.S. policymakers could encourage the growth of the U.S. cloud industry.

Congress can drive cloud adoption by focusing on broadband deployment, on making more spectrum available for mobile broadband and by ensuring that broadband providers follow net neutrality rules, the CCIA paper said. Congress should also protect cloud providers from copyright lawsuits aimed at the data their customers upload, the group said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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