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Cloud computing—delivering infrastructure, services, and software on demand via the network—offers attractive advantages to the public sector. For example, it has the potential to reduce information and communications technology (ICT) costs by virtualizing capital assets like disk storage and processing cycles into a readily available, affordable operating expense.

One of the most significant cloud computing opportunities for the public sector is the ability to share ICT resources among multiple agencies. While governments have tried hard to create frameworks geared toward shared services, these have not always been successful. Cloud computing offers an easier and less burdensome route to more efficient and effective public sector information management.

Of course, cloud computing is not without its challenges:

Public managers’ interest in cloud computing is (or should be) essentially the same as for any other computing technology or architecture. At its simplest, cloud computing should be evaluated for its ability to enable government organizations to conduct business efficiently and effectively. At the multi-agency or all-of-government level, it should also be examined for its ability to enable achievement of e-government objectives and support increased public sector performance.

It is important for public managers to gain a solid overview of how cloud computing is evolving, and the trends in its adoption. In the near term, the Cisco® Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) expects rapid growth in third-party “public” clouds offering many different application, computing, and storage services. While public sector organizations may choose to use these services—especially, we suspect, for standard business applications such as email or document creation—we think it is more likely they will elect to create their own private clouds, either alone or in partnership with other agencies.

Public sector ICT managers preparing for adoption of cloud computing should take these critical steps:

Cisco IBSG views cloud computing as a natural evolution of the Internet. Rather than regarding networks as mere plumbing, it is vital for public managers to understand them as the fabric “within” the cloud, and as the connection between the cloud and its users.

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