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Former e-gov administrator launches cloud best practices site

A government plan to save 15 percent to 20 percent of the federal information technology budget through cloud computing is an achievable goal, the nation's former e-government administrator told Nextgov on Tuesday.

But those savings can be realized only if agencies commit to reforming the way they manage data and processes, not simply the technology that houses that data, said Karen Evans, who ran the Office of Managements and Budget's information technology shop during the Bush administration and was often called the nation's unofficial chief information officer.

Evans is one of the major forces behind Safegov.org, an online storehouse for articles and information on cloud computing strategy for the federal, state and local governments that officially launched Tuesday.

She envisions Safegov.org as a resource for government officials, media and analysts to discuss best practices, she said, as well as a place where out-of-office technologists can give input into major policy decisions such as the development of FedRAMP, a delayed OMB and General Services Administration project to create a governmentwide security certification for cloud services.

Evans doesn't intend the site to be a broadside against current federal CIO Steven VanRoekel or the slate of sitting agency CIOs, she said.

"IT is a very bipartisan issue," Evans added.

The newly launched site includes an interview with Evans about the OMB plan to transition roughly one-fourth of the $80 billion federal IT budget to cloud computing by 2015. It also features an article by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, another founding member of Safegov.org, on data sovereignty in the cloud.

The remainder of the site consists mostly of aggregated articles on cloud issues by technology-focused publications, including Nextgov.

Because of budget constraints, federal agencies will have little choice but to throw their backs into the cloud transition, Evans said. If that transition isn't done thoughtfully, it could produce only minimal savings or none at all. Rather than simply move their current systems to the cloud, she said, officials will have to phase out complicated legacy systems in favor of simplified and standardized systems that fit more easily into the cloud's nimble architecture.

"If you take an inefficient business process and you put it into the cloud, it will just accelerate the inefficiencies," she said in the interview posted to the Safegov.org website.

Evans touted Safegov.org as an especially useful resource for state and local governments that can't make the same upfront investment in cloud research as the federal government, but are under even greater financial pressure.

The site also could help launch discussions about shared cloud services between state, local and federal government units, she said, such as a shared law enforcement cloud that could aid information sharing on criminals and terrorists.

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