Clouding Computing—what’s the forecast? In thinking about cloud computing and the growing number of government contracts seeking cloud services I kept looking to the sky and wondering about the number and types of weather clouds. So I did a little meteorological research this week and confirmed what I thought. There are many types of clouds. The common types of clouds include: (1) low clouds (stratus); (2) middle clouds (altostratus); (3) high clouds (cirrus) and (4) clouds with vertical development (cumulus). Within these common cloud types are additional subtypes or variations.

So it seems that the government is imitating Mother Nature. Currently there appears to be at least seven government wide or multiagency contracting vehicles that already offer cloud computing services or are contemplating adding cloud services. In addition, agencies may award their own stand alone contracts for cloud services. So it now appears that we have now growing number of contract vehicles offering the various sets of cloud services and solutions.

The rush to add cloud services to contracts across the government raises a host of acquisition planning questions: Does this approach make good business sense for government and industry? What are the costs to government and industry regarding duplication of efforts? What level of competition among government contracting shops is appropriate? How do we ensure access to the latest technology through competition from the commercial marketplace? Indeed, in light of OMB’s 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management, which tasked GSA with establishing government wide cloud offerings, one has to ask how these other contract vehicles impact GSA’s cloud computing initiatives.

Cloud computing has great potential to reduce the government’s operating costs and save taxpayer money. The GSA IT Schedule 70 has great potential to deliver innovative, cost effective cloud solutions. The key is to mirror commercial practices and pricing. Allowing companies to propose cloud solution pricing consistent with their commercial practices is more open, flexible, and efficient. Embracing commercial practices and pricing also enhances competition and will lead to better outcomes. As OMB has recognized, IT Schedule 70 can be the foundation for strategic implementation of cloud services. Finally, thinking above the cloud, does it make sense for agencies like GSA and DISA to partner in offering strategic, cross-cutting cloud services through an integrated set of FSS BPAs and contracts?