White House Advocates Cloud Investment as a Path to Artificial Intelligence

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A new report from the White House points to advanced cloud technologies to help bolster artificial intelligence R&D at the federal level.

Federal agencies that want to successfully scale and implement cloud computing systems into existing infrastructure can do so through several key practices, including designating expert teams, two-factor authentication, and enhanced education opportunities among users. 

Outlined in a White House report published earlier this month, officials documented how cloud computing systems can support further federal research and development in artificial intelligence, a goal within the broader Biden administration.  

Authored by the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Subcommittee within the National Science and Technology Council, the report notes that leveraging cloud computing technology can enable better on-demand resources for researchers working with AI technologies. It went on to highlight opportunities for public agencies looking to bolster AI research efforts with advanced computing systems. 

“Agencies that have undertaken early efforts to leverage commercial cloud computing resources to advance AI R&D have commonly experienced benefits to their investments in terms of providing internal and external researchers persistent, on-demand access to cutting-edge capabilities, accelerating experimentation and the use of AI in new domains, and enabling reproducibility and scalability of the research activities and results,” the report explains. 

Four best practices emerged from a survey of federal agencies adopting cloud computing for R&D purposes, the first being the designation of administrative teams to manage the implementation of cloud systems into existing infrastructure. These teams will also focus on providing training to other federal employees engaging with cloud computing to facilitate individual research goals. 

The subcommittee recommended improving security features, namely two-factor authentication, as a baseline security measure and the second best practice. Further training assistance for employees and pre-computed workflows were also recommended among best practices to help employee access and prevent duplicate work.

The report also outlined common challenges agencies faced in adopting cloud computing technologies, particularly related to a lack of funding and staffing across departments. 

“Agencies have also encountered challenges relating to (1) the costs of data storage and access, complicating the ability for multiple teams to access shared data, and (2) ensuring that the users of a given cloud computing platform can locate and maintain awareness of data, experiments and results relevant to their work and interests,” the report stated. 

The report ultimately emphasized the need for a more specialized workforce, a common challenge many agencies face when working with emerging technologies. It suggested more federal investments in training resources for professionals at every level of cloud computing systems, including end users, cloud architects and data scientists.

“Workforce development has remained a critical limiting factor in the ability to adopt and scale cloud computing-based research efforts. Many federal employees have limited familiarity with cloud computing technologies, and few have industry certification on cloud computing systems,” the report said. “These limitations challenge both internal research efforts and the ability to provide guidance and resources to external researchers.”