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Opening Keynote at Cloud Computing Forum & Workshop V

Department of Commerce, Washington, DC
June 5, 2012
Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director


Thank you, Mr. Secretary. It was wonderful having you here to kick us off on our fifth public forum on cloud, and I want to begin by welcoming all of you here to the Commerce Department for this conference.

On behalf of NIST, it is my pleasure to be here this morning. I want to thank all the contributors from academia, from industry, from standards organizations, from governments both in the United States and abroad, who have worked with us for the past two years through the NIST Cloud Computing Program. I think this is going to be a great workshop. I am looking forward to it as the momentum continues to build on this important area.

Let me begin by first echoing some acknowledgements, some of our key guests.

Ambassador Verveer, it's wonderful to welcome you back here this morning. He, as many of you know, plays a critical role in this space as the State Department's Director for International Communications and Information Policy. And he's on our first panel.

And also my partner in crime, Steve VanRoekel, who is the President's Chief Information Officer. And Steve's leadership and commitment are, I think, well known to everybody in this room. And if it's not, you should know, because he graces the cover of magazines. But he has laid out a compelling vision for the government's use of IT—making the government both more effective and more efficient. And as you will hear, cloud computing plays a key role in that enterprise. So, Steve, we're delighted that you're here.

I also want to acknowledge the special group of guests who are with us today. In particular, the members who will soon be joining us on the stage.

Pierre Boucher. Pierre, if you would raise your hand. Thank you for joining us. He's the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada. We're delighted that you're here.

Zhang Feng is the Director-General from the Department of Telecommunications Development from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology from the Republic of China. We're delighted that he is here.

Rainer Zimmermann, head of the Directorate General for Information Society and Media. And Yasuo Sakamoto, who is here. Welcome and thank you. He is the Deputy Director General from Global ICT Security Bureau from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications from Japan.

So this is a wonderful group, and it speaks to one of the things that we all know about cloud, which is on one hand, we're talking about the government and its need to adopt and leverage this incredible technology, but we're also talking about technology that's playing out in a global market.

So before we begin the visionary part of our program, let's pause a moment to reflect on the progress we've made over the past two years.

Today, many agencies are on track to implement their first set of cloud projects—in fact, are targeted for June of 2012.

You heard the Secretary mention that within the Commerce Department, the cloud has already had a big impact within the Census Bureau; we were able to close 7 data centers, which together with some server virtualization, is projected to save that bureau a million dollars.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has consolidated 21 different email systems into one cloud-based system, with a more than a 60 percent reduction in cost.

The Department of Homeland Security has moved more than 50,000 email accounts to the cloud and put 5,000 users on Virtual Desktop as a service this spring.

And this is just a short part of a long list of developments across many agencies in the federal government.

For our part at NIST, our role is to support both the short-term implementation goals, but in particular for this forum, the long-term strategic goals related to ensuring that cloud services are interoperable, secure and portable. And we've come a long way since this effort was kicked off just over two years ago in May 2010. So, we're here today both to highlight some of the critical progress, but also to work on what has become some real momentum and some real work. We're going to look at our roadmap goals, and we're going to look at our priority action plans.

Released in November of 2011, the Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap was a call to action. It was the first step for government agencies, being informed by academia, industry and standards bodies, to define and communicate what they needed to expand and accelerate the adoption and deployment of cloud computing in their federal sphere.

The private sector, our U.S. government partners, and the broader international community have taken on that call to action that was in the plan. When the plan was released for public comment, we received over 200 comments. They generally agreed with the roadmap's priorities and included some recommendations to expand or improve it. These comments, in fact, are being incorporated in the next version of the roadmap, which we will be releasing at the end of this calendar year.

For each of the requirements listed in the roadmap, there was more—there was a complementary set of proposed Priority Action Plans. And these Priority Action Plans are the second part of the process that was introduced just last November. They outline the specific, tactical steps that we have to take before we can take full advantage of cloud. Examples of this include perhaps developing standards to address a particular need; to provide needed guidance to agencies to guide their implementation of this new technology; in some cases, new technology necessary to satisfy these government requirements.

Over the next three days, you will see specific examples of the progress that has been made towards filling out these Priority Action Plans. This includes real progress in standards, in security solutions, in technical specifications for the underlying service-level agreements, for categorizing cloud services, providing frameworks for federated clouds, and to improve reliability and provide service metrics.

As an example, progress has been made in the adoption of the NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture, to be used as a common categorical framework for cloud services. Cloud service providers' use of the reference architecture will help cloud consumers to compare cloud services in an apples-to-apples fashion.

So our charge for this workshop is to continue to build on this momentum. In particular, we're interested in satisfying the high-priority requirements that are spelled out in the roadmap to help the U.S. government meet its goal of shifting some $20 billion worth of our current annual investment in IT to the cloud.

Today marks meaningful progress in our journey towards accelerated government adoption, but we are still in the early stages, and we have a long way to go before we achieve the vision established in the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy. 

In the arena of standards, we have two competing goals, which are very common to the realm of standards development. On one hand, we need to act very quickly, because the present need—standards are required for adoption, and the sooner that we can move, the sooner we can provide some stability into the markets and use them. On the other hand, we need to be deliberate enough to make sure that the standards we are putting in place are robust, reflect the consensus of the technical community, and are effective. That challenge is going to fall to you.

I really encourage you to continue to work with us and share your thoughts on how we can be more effective in this partnership as we move forward together. What we need to do right now is develop a common purpose and a shared commitment to develop robust security, portability and interoperability standards, and that support practical use of the cloud while at the same time enabling innovation in this rapidly developing area. And that's where you come in.

We believe there is agreement that our approach is on the right track. It provides a framework for action. And over the next few days, we hope you'll see that these priority action plans are working in enabling us to leverage the expertise and resources of the cloud community. And we take this as evidence that we should expand and broaden this model of partnership.

We ask you to consider and assess the program for yourself—for your own firms and for your own interest.  Let us know if you think we are on the right track or not, through the cloud computing public standards, the reference architecture, and the security working groups. I want to know how you think your work fits in with the U.S. Government Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap priorities.

We are all committed to working collaboratively and transparently and globally with all of our stakeholders to ensure this vision of a cloud-enabled future.

So, I hope you're ready for a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work kind of meeting. What you accomplish in this forum and in the collaborations to come is pivotal for realizing the promise of cloud computing. And with every meeting, we draw closer. I can see the momentum building. And it's really gratifying to see the hard work that so many of you have put into this effort.

I want to thank you, and I'm looking forward to hearing the progress as we go forward. And so with that, I would like to, I guess, begin with our panel. And Don, would you like to introduce our next guest? Thank you very much.