In December 2010 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a ‘Cloud First’ directive as part of a comprehensive effort to increase operational efficiencies of federal technology assets. The directive required federal agencies to implement cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, and cost-effective option existed and mandated that agencies should migrate three technology services. The original deadline to meet the mandate was June 2012.
According to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), only seven agencies incorporated cloud computing requirements into their policies and processes. Of these agencies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has made significant progress in moving to the cloud.
HHS points to its cloud strategy as a way to “address problems of cost-effectiveness, agility, efficiency and reuse by systematically applying the capabilities of cloud computing across the Department,” according to the website. HHS’ grants solutions, audit resolution tracking management system, and MedWatch Plus program are its first three services to move to the cloud as part of the Cloud-First initiative. But they haven’t stopped there.
- The FDA, operating as part of HHS, has more than 275 applications operating in its private cloud.
- GrantSolutions.gov, which is managed by HHS’s Administration for Children and Families, supports all 14 stages of the grants management business through the cloud.
- HealthData.gov runs on Amazon’s public cloud infrastructure, which is a development, security, and operational benchmark for other public-facing cloud projects. HealthData.gov is one of the first examples of opening government data to the public in an effort to make federal operations more transparent.
What Are the Benefits?
GovernmentHealthIT reported in an interview with HHS CIO, Frank Baitman, that users saw immediate improvements especially in the availability of Grant Solutions services: “[u]ser service improvement was the most critical positive impact of the move of GrantSolutions.gov to the cloud.” Baitman added that its real benefit is in allowing for “more flexibility in putting up more servers when needed.”
What’s the Next Step?
HHS is reported to be developing departmental guidance for cloud connectivity and processes that will be shared. Visit http://www.hhs.gov/ocio/ea/cloudcomputing.html for more details on HHS Cloud Initiative.