Senate Funds Web Services, Cuts Cloud Computing

The Senate Appropriations Committee has boosted federal spending for implementing web services next year but cut back on funding to use cloud computing to consolidate data centers and IT infrastructure throughout federal agencies.

As allocated by a Senate spending bill (S. 3677), passed July 29, the federal government will get $40 million in the fiscal 2011 federal budget to build a set of services that can be used across agencies to foster efficiency and collaboration between agency systems.

Specifically, the money is for the “development and operation of government-wide shared information technology services, the implementation of consolidated, resource-saving and energy-efficient platforms, and the development and operation of information technology security services … to promote inter-agency interoperability,” according to the bill.

The funds, which meet the requirements of a plan outlined in a presidential directive on transparency released in December 2009, will be available until Sept. 30, 2013, according to the bill.

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At the same time the Senate green-lighted millions in funding for shared services, it drastically reduced funds allocated by the Obama administration to adopt cloud computing, putting a crimp in its data-center consolidation plans.

In its proposed fiscal 2011 budget, the administration requested $35 million for what is called the Electronic Government Fund. The money was meant to use cloud computing to consolidate IT infrastructure to reduce the amount of data-center hardware and real estate the federal government currently has.

However, the Senate spending bill allocates only $20 million toward this plan, which not only is $15 million less than the administration asked for, but also is $14 million less than the amount enacted in fiscal-year 2010, according to a report accompanying the bill.

In that report senators said that while they do support the move to cloud computing to improve efficiency and transparency, they are concerned that the federal plan to consolidate data centers via cloud computing lacks proper and detailed guidance.

They asked that the General Services Administration report to the Senate Appropriations Committee 120 days after the spending bill is enacted on the “feasibility of consolidating federal agency data centers into existing government owned/government-operated facilities with multiple federal tenants,” according to the report.

The House Appropriations Committee has not yet taken action on the 2011 federal budget. Consolidating data centers is a key IT objective for the Obama administration as a way to cut IT costs, reduce energy consumption, and improve IT security.

In February, the Office of Management and Budget issued a Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (DCCI), asking agencies to update their asset inventory annually by the end of the third quarter of each fiscal year, staring in fiscal year 2011. Agencies also should report progress on executing their data center consolidation plans by the end of each fiscal year starting in 2011.

The White House followed that up with a memo in early June putting a moratorium on agencies opening any new data centers. The administration also asked that they examine the properties they already have and develop plans to consolidate them and reduce their number by 2015.

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