Google’s campaign for federal government cloud computing contracts came to Capitol Hill today with a top executive telling the House government oversight committee hearing that cloud computing is more secure than current agency-hosted information services.
Storing critical data at home or at work, claimed Mike Bradshaw, chief of Google Federal, “is the equivalent of keeping cash under your mattress. Storing data with a cloud computing provider is like keeping cash in a bank.”
With federal government agencies spending an estimated $76 billion a year on information technology (IT), cloud computing offers vendors like Google a major market opportunity–and a unique marketing challenge. Government IT decision-makers have far more doubts about cloud computing than their private sector counterparts.
Their caution makes Googlers impatient. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked Bradshaw about a General Service Administration study that found 22 of 24 government agencies expressed concern about “multi-tenancy” computer clouds, where the data of multiple agencies, organizations, or companies are stored in a single remote computer network.
“I don’t concur,” Bradshaw said flatly. He cited Automated Teller Machines as a multi-tenancy solution that is trusted by everyone. (The analogy isn’t quite right because the ATM used can’t download programs to the machine the way cloud users can download programs to their Web-based network.)
Representatives of other cloud providers who testified (EMC, Microsoft and Salesforce.com) were more politic, defending the security of cloud platforms while seeking to assuage fears about data leakage and privacy violations.
When asked about the biggest risks of cloud computing, the other industry reps said the biggest risks were the loss of data, privacy, money, and (in cases of war) lives. Bradshaw said the biggest risk was “the labeling” of the cloud as somehow less secure.
The only independent witness, Carnegie Mellon professor Gregory Ganger, said the biggest danger was “entrenchment,” meaning government IT professionals sticking with self-hosted legacy technology instead of adopting the more efficient and powerful capabilities of the cloud.
That’s closer to the Bradshaw/Google view but that doesn’t mean it will prevail. In many government agencies, said Ganger, cloud computing is “going to be a tough sell.”