Amazon introduced a new cloud service aimed specifically at the United States government this week. Although the Amazon Web Services (AWS) GovCloud is targeted at government agencies, there are also some valuable lessons for private sector businesses and IT admins to learn about cloud servers and data storage.
AWS GovCloud is designed to meet more stringent rules for data handling and access. In a press release announcing the new government cloud service, Amazon explains that GovCloud addresses specific regulatory and compliance requirements--like the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) that governs how defense-related data is managed and stored. Specifically, GovCloud segregates the data both logically and physically to ensure that it is only accessible by designated individuals within the United States.
The AWS GovCloud is conceptually similar to efforts by Google and Microsoft to deliver cloud services that meet government restrictions for data handling. Within the AWS GovCloud, agencies can implement Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) resources and take advantage of the flexibility, scalability, and affordability of the cloud.
Private sector businesses sitting on the fence when it comes to cloud processing and storage can learn a thing or two about the potential benefits by considering how the United States government is taking advantage of the cloud.
Tomas Soderstrom, Chief Technology Officer, in the Office of the CIO at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains, "By working with cloud computing providers such as AWS, we gain the flexibility to move quickly, acquire IT resources on-demand and save money by paying only for the resources we use."
Soderstrom points out that the CIO of JPL, Jim Rinaldi, laid out a vision that hardware should be provisioned rather than procured. In other words, JPL should have the ability to scale on demand--adding or removing resources to meet immediate needs--without committing budget to buying a bunch of hardware that might be idle six months from now. AWS GovCloud enables JPL to realize that vision.
Teresa Carlson, Vice President of Global Public Sector, Amazon Web Services describes how the United States Recovery and Accountability Transparency Board blazed a trail as the first government-wide agency to embrace the cloud. By moving the infrastructure for the Recovery.gov website to AWS, the Recovery and Accountability Board saved $750,000 in only one budget cycle.
The United States government recognizes that cloud services offer advantages that can enable agencies to be more agile and operate more efficiently. It has issued a Federal Cloud First policy that directs government agencies to aggressively consider cloud resources as an option. Now, with AWS GovCloud, even agencies that deal in more sensitive data can consider Amazon cloud services to fulfill that mission.
If the agencies of the United States government can maintain the flexibility and scalability of hardware resources to meet demand when necessary, and reduce resources when they're not needed, and cut spending at the same time, so can other businesses. The trick, though--for both government agencies and private sector businesses--is to do so in a way that doesn't place all the proverbial eggs in one basket enabling productivity to be crippled if the cloud service hiccups.