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FCW : November and December 2015
Most federal IT managers and their staff are familiar with the different types of cloud technology available— private, public, community and hybrid. However, there’s another important concept when it comes to understanding cloud technology—the federated cloud. Federation is the process of combining multiple smaller parts that perform a common action. When applying the term to cloud technology, it means combining several clouds—private, public, hybrid or community. Each cloud may meet one specific requirement or accomplish one specific goal. In the case of federal government, this could mean creating a federated cloud to share data for a research project that spans multiple agencies. In other cases, a federated cloud might serve an entire agency or workgroup that needs to consistently share resources and data. Simplified management is one of the greatest benefits of cloud federation. Federation lets agencies assign applications to the cloud platforms that make the most sense for that application, instead of simply relying on the agency’s default cloud. It also simplifies load balancing. Security also becomes easier, because agencies can focus on adding more security features to the cloud stack that hosts the most sensitive data and applications. Federation also means agencies have more freedom of choice. Instead of buying cloud services from one provider, agencies can pick and choose the cloud services that make the most sense for each specific workload, regardless of vendor. The federal government is enthusiastic about the potential of cloud federation. NIST’s Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap, for example, requires frameworks to support seamless implementation of federated community cloud environments. It has assigned a working group to determine the best way to integrate across diverse provider environments, as well as public and private cloud environments. The Federated Cloud When it comes to the technology supporting federal government operations, security will always be a primary concern. That’s certainly true of the cloud. Despite significant progress, agencies are still legitimately concerned about hackers accessing sensitive data stored in the cloud. Recent surveys show security is still the top issue holding agencies back from greater adoption of cloud technology. While security will always be the most important factor governing any government IT decision, there has been significant progress with respect to cloud storage. In fact, the cloud is far more secure than it was even just a few years ago. A recent survey published by The Economist, for example, found cloud providers have vastly improved data security and compliance with security and regulatory requirements. Microsoft, for example, has bolstered security by increasing transparency, visibility and user control. It has added HP’s ArcSight as its security information and event management (SIEM) platform. Google also has made great strides, not only by improving transparency, but through Project Zero—its effort to quickly find and fix zero-day exploits. Other providers are making similar progress. For example, many have added SIEM, which provides real-time security alert analysis and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) protection. This prevents attacks that can completely shut down services. Many also use application container technology and have improved authentication processes. As cloud security improves and FedRAMP approves more vendors, agencies have begun increasing their levels of cloud adoption. The Defense Department, for example, is moving much of its non-sensitive data to the cloud, such as e-mail and milCloud, DISA’s cloud services product portfolio. The Cloud Security Challenge GameChanger CLOUD TECHNOLOGY DRIVES GOVERNMENT INNOVATION SPONSORED REPORT CLOUD COMPUTING Shutterstock.com 1215_GameChanger_CDW_EMC_FCW_final.indd 1 11/10/15 11:06 AM