U.S. Public Sector CIOs Embrace Cloud Computing

My name is Tony Tai, and I recently joined the Microsoft Office 365 team.  Prior to this role, I managed the SharePoint marketing website, powered by SharePoint2010.  It was incredibly fun to roll out the first public facing website on SharePoint 2010’s general availability day.  I also spent the last 7 years helping businesses establish digital strategies and grow their footprints online.  Now I get to share with you what I learn about Office 365 and how it can deliver value to your organization.


Looking forward, we have quite a few exciting plans for the next few months including a facelift of this blog, new whitepapers and case studies about Office 365.  We will continue to share facts and information to help you evaluate Office 365.  You can also follow us on Twitter to get the latest and greatest.  Now onto today’s post.


U.S. Public Sector CIOs Embrace Cloud Computing 

This week is the annual Microsoft Public Sector CIO Summit.  Over 300 leaders are in attendance, coming from Federal, State, and Local Governments, Education and Health organizations.    I had an opportunity to interview Curt Kolcun, Microsoft VP of US Public Sector, and Tom Rizzo, Microsoft Senior Director of Online Services, about the impact of the cloud services in the US Public Sector.

1.  What recent IT trends do you see in the Public Sector?

  [Curt] The past few months have marked a transformative time in government IT. We’re seeing tremendous interest in cloud computing – and movement to cloud computing -- from Public Sector organizations large and small across the country. In the last few months the State of California, the State of Minnesota, New York City and the US Department of Agriculture have all moved to Microsoft Online Services to improve their communication and collaboration, streamline IT and lower costs.  But it’s not just big cities and state customers.  More than 190 state and local government organizations across nearly every state now use Microsoft Online Services and today, we announced 16 new organizations to our cloud roster including Portland Public Schools, Vanderbilt University, Tulane University, the City of Virginia Beach, VA, and the City of Alexandria, VA.

2. What’s driving the cloud computing transformation in government agencies?

  [Curt] Many Public Sector organizations are seeking affordable cloud solutions which are clearly built for the enterprise.  The cloud transformation offers a great opportunity to significantly reduce IT costs in most cases.  Additionally, the per-user-based model helps IT managers accurately manage today budget, at the same time, ready to grow for tomorrow.
  [Tom] In difficult economic times it’s even more important that government agencies do their homework on total cost of ownership.  One of the most important cloud considerations for customers is that of long term value and cost savings.  Initial purchase and deployment costs can be deceptive and can represent a very small percentage of the total cost of ownership.  As the District of Columbia can tell you, low initial price doesn’t translate into greater value or cost savings in the long term.  Particularly when a significant portion of your employees still require Office to meet their day to day productivity needs.

3.  What are the key considerations for public sector organizations when it comes to cloud computing?

  [Curt] In the Public Sector, there is increased focus on the highest levels of security, compliance requirements, productivity functionality, enterprise support and flexibility.  Public sector organizations are responsible for securing sensitive information, which is why many of them prefer a dedicated, “private” cloud environment for hosting their data. Geography is also an important consideration – where does that data reside? Who has access to it?  For example, our BPOS-Federal cloud solution is a private offering that ensures agency data will be housed and maintained within the United States, and accessed only by citizens of the United States who have undergone rigorous background screening.
  [Tom] As our competitors are finding out, enterprise security is complex.  A high-profile Google cloud implementation for a major metropolitan area encountered numerous setbacks.  Most recently its police department dropped efforts to adopt a new e-mail system run by Google after it ran up against federal security requirements (CJIS) for storing law enforcement records.  Google’s Government Cloud is a community (“multitenant”) cloud offering that hosts data from multiple government entities (more than 89,000) - including state and local agencies - in the same environment.  And Google can’t guarantee that data will reside in the United States.

Additionally, government records must remain consistent as they move in and out of a cloud environment, but not all available cloud offerings guarantee that integrity. Records imported or exported from Google Apps into other formats or environments run the risk of being altered or disrupted, raising security concerns that are unacceptable for public records. Microsoft treats documents as discrete entities, preserving their original format even when accessed in a browser or via Web Apps.

4.  Why are IT flexibility and support so important?

  [Curt] Organizations have to establish migration paths that best fit their needs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. We offer on premises, cloud and hybrid options so customers can run technology entirely in the cloud, entirely on premises or anywhere in between. With the help of more than 16,000 partners worldwide, we offer organizations both multitenant and private cloud options. Microsoft also has the industry’s most rigorous SLA with 99.9-percent financially backed up time.  We’re humbled so many public sector organizations are choosing Microsoft.  We think the choices we offer for deployment along with our rigorous security and privacy policies are among their key reasons for doing so.
  [Tom] As organizations shift their IT resources from on premises to the cloud, your cloud service provider has to be ready to support their customers around the clock.  Microsoft offers 24/7 voice support an area where many of our competitors are often lacking.  Businesses don’t want to wait up to 72 hours to have their support calls returned, nor do they want to be directed to an online forum. The fact of the matter is enterprise class support isn’t a nice to have it’s a must have.

5.  How is Microsoft able to meet customer needs in the cloud?

  [Curt] Ultimately customers have come to expect the cloud solution to have on-par functionality with the tools that they rely on daily basis.  With over two decades of experience delivering the world’s leading productivity solutions, we know organizations trust us to meet their business requirements – both on premises and in the cloud.  We’re humbled that the number of businesses on BPOS more than tripled last year and we believe a big reason for that is due to the choice and flexibility we’re able to offer.
  [Tom] Cloud computing momentum is real and is just beginning. Customers are coming to Microsoft because we bring the best productivity solutions from on-premise to the cloud. There are lots competitions out there, but none can measure up to Microsoft’s decades of innovation and enterprise-proved track record. With over 40 million customers using Microsoft Online Services today, we expect to meet more customer needs with our new offering in Office 365.

It is truly exciting to see Public Sector entities fully embracing cloud computing and realize the value.  Is your organization considering moving to the cloud? Tell us how the cloud is transforming your company in the comments below.

Comments (55)

  1. JoeTierney says:

    Google Apps for Government includes 24×7 support.

    Google Apps for Government provides a dedicated environment and guarantees data is kept in the US.

    Google Apps for Government is FISMA certified.

    Forrester listed the ROI for Google Apps at 391%

    Tom – put this note in your cloud computing CliffsNotes, "multi-tenancy = good".

    Regardless of platform a document must be converted to a web version in order to be edited online. BTW can you even open and edit a .xlsx doc online with Office Web Apps without the desktop version of Excel? I can't. I guess customers could just use this: googleenterprise.blogspot.com/…/teach-your-old-docs-new-tricks-with.html  

    The bold is a nice touch, made it much easier to find the FUD.

    So if your current "cloud" offering runs on the 2007 server products and it's 2011, when the hosted versions of the 2010 server products finally become available, assuming it is this year, as Office 365 those customers can expect an upgrade in 2015. That's funny. Microsoft will probably be broken up and sold by that point.  

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