September 22, 2011 – Cloud computing could be the driving force for jobs and innovation in the IT sector in the U.S., though open and flexible standards are overdue and user security concerns persist, industry experts stated in testimony to a federal subcommittee.

The House Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing on opportunities, competitiveness and obstacles with cloud computing, as well as the role of the federal government. Testifying Thursday on behalf of the industry were Nick Combs, federal CTO at EMC, Michael Capellas, CEO and chairman of Virtual Computing Environment Company, and Dan Reed, Microsoft V.P. Dr. David McClure, associate administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies for the General Services Administration (GSA), described his agency’s role in deployment as part of the federal CIO’s roadmap for IT.

In opening remarks, subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) alluded to the possibilities of the cloud as the “next wave” of IT’s economy charge.

“Its widespread adoption offers significant opportunities for new innovation and productivity gains for both the public and private sectors,” Quayle said.

Capellas testified to the agility and cost-reduction possibilities with cloud deployment, and urged the government to focus more on cloud efforts as a means to boost commercial providers and innovation.

“The more compelling return [with cloud investment] is the opportunity to leap forward; to discover new markets and improve how we interact with, serve, and support U.S. citizens, users and other nations,” Capellas said.

Subcommittee members expressed concerns that security lingers as the main obstacle to widespread adoption, and pushed for tiering for different levels of data security. EMC’s Combs called for a common framework among cloud security providers to ensure that vendors are on the same page and to calm concerns of users over vendor responsibility and reaction.

“Security must be risk-based and driven by flexible policy that is aligned to the business or mission need,” Combs said.

For a slide show on expectations and initiatives of federal CIOs, click here.

McClure with the GSA laid out examples of cloud migration of email and collaboration solutions taken on by his department recently that will shut down 45 unneeded servers and bring in $15 million in savings over the next five years. Rather than just jump on the new technology, McClure said it is important for information managers to instead focus on their desired outcome with the cloud before moving forward.

“CIOs need to work with their line of business executives and program managers to develop and deploy effective cloud roadmaps that address pressing agency mission needs, taking into account costs savings and expected performance improvements,” he said, pointing to guidance from a forthcoming National Institute of Standards and Technology roadmap.

For the full testimony and a video archive of Thursday’s hearing, click here.

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