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GCN : July 2015
16 GCN JULY 2015 • GCN.COM Inconsistent cloud terminology muddies the waters BY ALEX ROSSINO INDUSTRY INSIGHT THE FEDERAL CLOUD COMPUTING MARKET is nothing if not confusing. Despite the best efforts of technical personnel at the National Institute of Standards and Technol- ogy to define what cloud is, the cloud market has come to encompass goods and services well beyond the narrow definitions of infrastructure, platform and software as a service. Un- derstanding this is impor- tant because the complexity of the cloud market makes finding business opportuni- ties that much harder. Take for example the booming business of migrat- ing agency datasets to big hosting companies such as Amazon Web Services. AWS provides the cloud (the IaaS), but another vendor does the migration work. In this context, what part of the work should be consid- ered cloud computing? The hosting services pro- vided by AWS are clearly cloud, but without the data migration work done by the industry partner, AWS provides nothing. The industry partner is a crucial piece of the cloud puzzle, so shouldn’t the migration work also be con- sidered part of the cloud market? At Deltek, we call these types of services “cloud enabling,” and we con- sider them to be part of the cloud-computing paradigm. Therefore, we include spending on those ser- vices in our analysis of the federal cloud market. So if cloud-enabling services fit into a broader definition of the market, companies’ business development teams should be searching for opportunities to do that kind of work. Data migration ser- vices are one shade of gray among many. An even more challenging trend that has emerged in the past couple of years is the use of the word “cloud” to describe a network of communications hardware and switches. That definition first came to my attention in the early stages of the Defense Department’s implementa- tion of Multiprotocol Label Switching routers for the Joint Information Environ- ment. Referred to as an MPLS cloud, the “cloudi- ness” of the gear appears to refer to the scalability of the hardware. But does the MPLS cloud really fit the definition of cloud provided by NIST? DOD is now taking the cloud analogy one step fur- ther and referring to sensor arrays as clouds. Do sensor arrays constitute cloud computing? Their descrip- tion as cloud confuses the issue quite a bit. Seeking clarity in the terminology is not simply the complaint of a picky analyst. Using cloud terms for things that are not cloud has a serious impact on our understanding of the market and the size of the business opportunity related to cloud. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration has requested $24.3 million in fiscal 2016 for its Terminal Voice Switch Replacement program. TVSR replaces aging and obsolete voice switches related to air traf- fic control. Those switches are basically boxes of hard- ware that enable the use of voice over IP. In its fiscal 2016 IT budget proposal, the Transportation Department requested $71.5 million for cloud computing. The question must be asked, however: Does a collection of FAA switching hardware constitute a cloud? If so, then DOT will be spend- ing $71.5 million on cloud. If not, then it will spend $47.2 million. The correct use of terminology is important because the definition of cloud computing informs business decisions across the government market. If the definition is flawed, the resulting decisions are as well. That’s why the ter- minology matters and why clearing up the confusion is relevant. • — Alex Rossino is a prin- cipal research analyst at Deltek. This article origi- nally appeared on Deltek’s GovWin blog. NIST’s definition Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g ., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics: on-demand self- service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and measured service. Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology 0715gcn_016.indd 16 6/29/15 9:11 AM