Fear and loathing in Washington: Why a recent survey found that 92% of government IT leaders have reservations about making the move to the cloud

Posted on July 27, 2011


Earlier in June in an article titled GSA $2.5 Billion Cloud Computing Procurement RFQ: Real Opportunity or a Mirage for SME Vendors, I reviewed the opportunity for SMEs relative to the U.S. Federal Government’s announced $2.5 billion cloud computing contracts.

While the focus of the article centered on the supplier side of the equation it now appears, at least according to the ScienceLogic Survey that was released at the FOSE conference in Washington, that there are serious and more universal reservations regarding soon to be former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s Cloud First policy.

Based on results of the survey, even though two-thirds of government agencies have identified the three “must move” services to cloud computing as stipulated by the Kundra policy, a whopping 92% have expressed reservations as to the veracity of the technology from a standpoint of performance and the availability of services.

There is also concern that after Kundra’s departure there will be budget cuts relative to the funds that will be needed to make the transition work from both an immediate and long term perspective.  A concern that is compounded by the fact that 63% believe that they will require additional resources to make the move to the cloud a successful proposition.

Right off the bat, one has to wonder if the Cloud First policy is a viable strategy (especially given the present resistance to change environment within the government), or simply an attempt by Kundra to leave an enduring legacy mark that will make his tenure as the Federal CIO stand out?

With regard to the latter point, I think that no matter what the outcome Kundra will have left an indelible mark.  The only question will be if it is a positive or a negative footnote on his Federal CIO career.

It is the former question that represents the real uncertainty as to what the outcome of the move to the cloud will mean to the U.S. Government.

Unfortunately, I cannot help but think that the expressed concerns are more a reflection of the hoary reservations of IT leaders who loath change more than possessing an actual fear of the purported risks of operating in the cloud.

Let’s face it, if any profession has come to symbolize a towers of gold, feet of clay mentality, it is the IT people who have historical suffered from a overworked elitism attitude that saw the vast majority of them pooh-pooh the emergence of the desktop PC as a passing fad.  After all, and in a kind of ironic twist, we are not talking about a group of people who are known to embrace innovation even though they deal in what is habitually a frequently changing technological world.  This of course means that they are bound to fall back on the too great a risk and not enough resources refrain that has become the all too familiar war cry for a just leave us alone, we know what we are doing approach to automation.

It is here that the true and enduring risk to the Cloud First policy resides in that anything less than a razing of the revered principles that have been the main tenets of the IT doctrine ultimately, and proportionate to the level of resistance to change on the part of the IT leaders, can (and will) significantly reduce the extent of the policy’s eventual success.

The Morph Monsters

In a kind of ambivalence meets siloed arrogance reality that is reminiscent of the debt ceiling debate on Capital Hill, it is amazing that anything ever gets done without the proverbial pulling of teeth effort.

In the end of course, the transformation to a cloud computing platform will, like the personal computer, win out.  Against this backdrop of inevitability, perhaps the IT people can get it right this time around and make the journey that much easier and less costly for those involved . . . especially the American taxpayer.