On Friday I wrote about the economy's impact on software-as-a-service adoption, noting that cost consciousness may have accelerated the use of SaaS for many companies. Without the push to cut costs experienced by many companies over the past 18 months, I think it's safe to say at least some of them might have taken their time in evaluating SaaS.
It's no surprise that cash-strapped government agencies also are considering SaaS to cut their costs. Vendors are aware of this, as evidenced by Microsoft's recent launch of a dedicated cloud computing service specifically designed for government use. Google introduced a similar, government-friendly cloud in September.
President Obama's 2011 budget proposal includes a suggestion to eliminate at least some of the federal government's 1,000 data centers and use cloud computing technologies to centralize IT services for multiple federal agencies. Input, an analysis and consulting company specializing in government IT, predicts the federal government's cloud computing market will grow by 27 percent over the next five years.
Michigan state government is considering an even more interesting idea, rolling out a series of tests under which it will offer branded, cloud-based data storage services to various state agencies as well as libraries and schools, an idea promoted by Michigan's CTO Dan Lohrmann.
The biggest stumbling blocks to increased government adoption of SaaS, says Lohrmann in a Computerworld article, are lingering security concerns and government agencies' belief that their IT services require more customization than may be available with SaaS. I addressed both of these issues in an October post discussing the Central Intelligence Agency's use of cloud computing.
Jill Tummler Singer, the CIA's deputy CIO, acknowledged the agency has "seen a significant amount of pushback" with its efforts to move some processes to the cloud. As for security, the post mentions the Defense Information Systems Agency's cloud computing platform, which it offers to various military agencies. The DISA conducts a full SAS 70 audit for cloud-based applications, uses a specialized security accreditation process and employs a strict data-cleansing process for applications removed from the cloud platform.
Lohrmann believes government resistance to SaaS and other variants of cloud computing will rapidly weaken. He tells Computerworld:
If someone said you could do X, Y and Z for half the price with SaaS, but you'd need to change this [data] field or that field in an application, I think you'd all of a sudden see that those unique requirements would not be as important.