White House moves Recovery.gov to Amazon's cloud

Recovery.govEarlier today in a blog post on WhiteHouse.gov, federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced that Recovery.gov would be moving to the cloud. The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board’s primary contractor, Smartronix, chose Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to host the site. NASA has used EC2 for testing, but this will be the first time a government website — a “.gov” — has been hosted on Amazon’s EC2. Kundra estimated the savings to the operational budget to run Recovery.gov at approximately $750,000, with $334,000 coming in 2010 alone.

“This is a production system,” said Kundra, during a press briefing today. “That’s a critical difference from other agencies that have been testing or piloting. We don’t have data that’s sensitive in nature or vital to national security here.”

The recovery board plans to redirect more than $1 million in computer hardware and software that were being used to host Recovery.gov to fraud oversight operations. It’s a move that Earl Devaney, chairman of the recovery board, said will help identify fraud, waste and abuse in the recovery program.

Gov 2.0 Expo 2010Devaney said that after a town hall, Smartronix evaluated the cloud computing options and decided to go with Amazon’s public offering. “In terms of competition, part of what we’re trying to introduce is Darwinian pressure in federal IT, including new entrants in government that haven’t been there before, such as Amazon,” said Kundra.

He also said this represents one of the “first bricks in the foundation that we’re laying” throughout the federal government, in terms of cloud computing. Kundra pointed to an upcoming forum on cloud computing on May 20 where many of the issues that the National Institute for Standards and Technology has been working on will be addressed, including the relationship between the public and private sector.

Kundra said that the move to Amazon’s public cloud went through tough cybersecurity vetting. “The board and vendor went through a rigorous process, in terms of FISMA
checks and balances,” said Kundra.

The federal government is actively developing cloud computing case studies, like the use of Saleforce.com’s public cloud by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Case studies are being used for the broader FedRAMP program,” he said. “Look at the Department of Interior: The CIO is considering moving 80,000 emails to the cloud. Look at the investments made at GSA or a recent RFI [Request for Information] around email. Across federal government, you’re seeing a number of agencies putting in a plan.”

Why move to the cloud now, rather than at the start? “We had concerns about data, pulling it off with hundreds of thousands of feeds,” said Devaney. “We found it prudent to do it the old-fashioned way first, then move to the cloud.”

On May 20, Kundra said the federal government will release data center numbers as part of a larger project to consolidate IT infrastructure. Based upon those findings, further migration to cloud computing may be forthcoming.

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