While the private sector is building on cloud computing's various benefits, government organisations are also having a go at benefitting too.
This HP whitepaper looks at how governments are trying to make a fist out of cloud computing and how they are overcoming the obstacles in doing so.
After having to face financial constraints over the last five years as a result of the economic meltdown, government agencies have been forced to seek optimised business models to deliver government services at reduced cost.
Under the US Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, for instance, the US government instituted its CloudFirst policy to accelerate the pace of cloud adoption, and enjoy financial savings as soon as possible. Such a CloudFirst strategy has been followed by the UK government and various other countries.
Those governments that quickly move to the cloud can benefit from IT consolidation, whereby they can benefit from consolidating their server footprints through virtualisation technology and the cloud. They can also push through data centre consolidation and benefit from further reduced hardware costs and slashed energy consumption.
Using the cloud, government agencies can also benefit from shared services across government departments to further reduce costs and improve overall business processes through elastic capacity. The days of government IT contracts to serve single government departments worth many hundreds of millions of pounds or dollars are well gone, and the cloud supports this cost-cutting policy.
The cloud also supports government moves to open up the data it collects on its citizens and services to the public, for their benefit through self-service portals. Most data collected by governments is not confidential, so why not make it easier for citizens to access it themselves, instead of paying civil servants to field citizen requests for it.
That's not to say there are no obstacles to overcome when making the cloud work across governments and their agencies.
Security, culture, budgets, standards, reliability and cloud management leadership are all issues that have to be addressed before cloud deployments become a given across governments.
As we will see later, different governments for different countries have varied approaches to making the cloud work for them.
A growing market
But despite the potential obstacles, the government cloud market is a growing one. Industry research company MarketsandMarkets estimates the global government cloud market will be worth $18.5 billion by 2018.
This figure covers clouds for federal, state and local legislatures, as well as military clouds, and includes technology around SaaS, PaaS and IaaS services through public, private and hybrid clouds.
The five year forecast starts from $2.87 billion (£1.7bn) in 2013 to $18.5 billion (£10.8bn) in 2018, which is a CAGR of over 45 per cent over the five-year span.
North America is currently the biggest market for government cloud expenditure, although MarketsandMarkets predicts this could change beyond 2018, as the Asia Pacific region sees a drastic increase in market traction, to eventually become the biggest market for government cloud services in the world.
The report confirms that most federal, state and local government expenditure on cloud services is on private architectures, with much less support for public and hybrid clouds.
Although most government data is not confidential, perhaps the security concerns around what is, is holding back public and hybrid cloud adoption overall. That said, this hasn't stopped various US and UK government bodies, for instance, using public cloud-based productivity suites that include email, word processing, spreadsheets and document sharing services.
Government cloud sweepstake
The Business Software Alliance (BSA), the global advocate for the software industry, annually charts the progress made by governments when it comes to cloud readiness and adoption.
Last year it said countries around the world are "improving the legal environment" for cloud computing - though at an "uneven pace" that risks undermining the full economic potential of cloud technologies.
The BSA's Global Cloud Computing Scorecard found that some governments were promoting and deploying local cloud architectures in ways that were "stalling" cross-border cloud co-operation, potentially stalling global cloud benefits. Then again, isn't that what countries try to do most of the time - innovate internally to get an edge on their neighbours?
"We're seeing patchy progress in the policy landscape for cloud computing," says BSA president and CEO Robert Holleyman. "Mismatched privacy and security rules are making it hard for data to flow across borders. Too many countries are chopping off pieces of the cloud for themselves.
"This undercuts economies of scale that can benefit everyone. To have a cohesive global marketplace, we need more bridges and fewer barriers," says Holleyman.
The movers and shakers
The biggest mover in the BSA rankings was Singapore, which vaulted to number five in the rankings from ten the previous year. The BSA says Singapore has adopted a new privacy law that "builds user trust while also promoting business innovation".
The BSA says Japan continued to lead the global rankings with a "comprehensive suite of laws supporting digital commerce". Australia remained in second place, and the US edged into third, pushing Germany down to fourth.
You see, when it comes to cloud leadership, as far as the BSA is concerned, it isn't just about total cloud expenditure.
The BSA rankings evaluate countries in seven policy areas it says are "critical" to the market for cloud computing services, namely, data privacy, cybersecurity, cybercrime, intellectual property, technology interoperability and legal harmonisation, free trade, and ICT infrastructure.
Canada, Russia and India all moved up the rankings by implementing international IP agreements, while Europe and the US "stalled against the backdrop of the ongoing debates over privacy laws", the BSA says.
Indonesia and Vietnam were among the countries "tying up foreign cloud providers in red tape", by imposing data location requirements, or restricting the flow of data across borders.
So while the quality of government cloud computing deployments may be varied, their overall adoption rates are certainly becoming more extensive.
Images: spacebahr, Flickr // Raymond Shobe, Flickr.