U.S. Government Moves to the Cloud

The U.S. Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board recently announced the move of its Recovery.gov site to a cloud computing infrastructure. That cloud computing infrastructure is powered by Amazon.com’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and will grant the U.S. Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board more efficient computer operation, reduced costs and improved security.

Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud technology was selected as the foundation for the move by Smartronix, which acted as the prime contractor on the migration made by the U.S. Recovery Accountability and Transparency. Also in the May 13 announcement, the board said Recovery.gov is now the first government-wide system to make the move into the cloud.

The U.S. government’s official Website that provides easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending, Recovery.gov allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste and abuse. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board with two goals in mind: to provide transparency related to the use of Recovery-related funds, and to prevent and detect fraud, waste and mismanagement.

CEO of Smartronix John Parris said of the announcement, “Smartronix is honored to have supported the Recovery Board’s historic achievement in taking Recovery.gov, the standard for open government, to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). This is the first federal Website infrastructure to operate on the Amazon EC2 and was achieved due to the transparent and collaborative working relationship between Team Smartronix and our outstanding government client.”

The board anticipates that the move will save approximately $750,000 during its current budget cycle and result in long-term savings as well. For fiscal year 2010 and 2011 direct cost savings to the Recovery Board will be $334,800 and $420,000 respectively.

Aside from savings, the move to the cloud will free up resources and enable the board’s staff to focus on its core mission of providing Recovery.com’s users with rich content without worrying about management of the Website’s underlying data center and related computer equipment.

In a statement released in conjunction with the announcement, vice president of Amazon Web Services Adam Selipsky said, “Recovery.gov is demonstrating how government agencies are leveraging the Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform to run their technology infrastructure at a fraction of the cost of owning and managing it themselves. Building on AWS enables Recovery.giv to reap the benefits of the cloud–including the ability to add or shed the resources as needed, paying only for resources used and freeing up scarce engineering resources from running technology infrastructure–all without sacrificing operational performance, reliability, or security.”

The Board’s Chairman, Earl Devany, said, “Cloud computing strikes me as a perfect tool to help achieve greater transparency and accountability. Moving to the cloud allows us to provide better service at lower costs. I hope this development will inspire other government entities to accelerate their own efforts. The American taxpayers would be the winners.”

Board officials also said that greater protection against network attacks and real time detection of system tampering are some of the security improvements from the move. Amazon’s computer security platform has been essentially added to the Board’s own security system (which will continue to be maintained and operated by the Board’s staff).

President of Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Jack Dangermound also released a statement after the announcement was made. “Recovery.gov broke new ground in citizen participation in government and is now a pioneer in moving to the cloud. Opening government and sharing data through GIS are strengthening democratic processes of the nation,” said Dangermound. “The Recovery Board had the foresight to see the added value of empowering citizens to look at stimulus spending on a map, to explore their own neighborhoods, and overlay spending information with other information. This is much more revealing than simply presenting lists and charts and raises the bar for other federal agencies.” For more information please visit Nubifer.com.

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