Amazon Helps US Government Leap Into The Cloud

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The US Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board has moved its Recovery.gov site to a cloud computing infrastructure powered by Amazon

The US Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board has announced that it has moved its Recovery.gov site to a cloud computing infrastructure powered by Amazon.com’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for potential benefits such as more efficient computer operations, improved security and reduced costs.

First government system to move to the cloud

Smartronix acted as the prime contractor on the migration and selected Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud technology as the foundation for the move. In a May 13 announcement, the board said Recovery.gov now becomes the first government-wide system to move to the cloud.

Recovery.gov is the US government’s official website that provides easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse. The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with two goals: To provide transparency in relation to the use of Recovery-related funds; and to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and mismanagement.

“Smartronix is honored to have supported the Recovery Board’s historic achievement in taking Recovery.gov, the standard for open government, to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2),” said John Parris, CEO of Smartronix. “This is the first federal website infrastructure to be fully hosted and accredited to operate on the Amazon EC2 and was achieved due to the transparent and collaborative working relationship between Team Smartronix and our outstanding government client.”

Long-term benefits

According to the board, expected benefits of the move to the cloud include expected savings of about $750,000 (£516,000) during its current budget cycle and significantly more savings, long-term. Direct cost savings to the Recovery Board will be $334,800 (£230,000) for fiscal year 2010 and $420,000 (£289,000) for fiscal year 2011.

The move to the cloud also will free up resources and enable the board’s staff to focus more intently on its core mission of delivering rich content for Recovery.gov users without worrying about managing the website’s underlying data centre and related computer equipment.

“Recovery.gov is demonstrating how government agencies are leveraging the Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform to run their technology infrastructure at a fraction of the cost of owning and managing it themselves,” said Adam Selipsky, vice president of Amazon Web Services, in a statement. “Building on AWS enables Recovery.gov to reap the benefits of the cloud – including the ability to add or shed resources as needed, paying only for resources used and freeing up scarce engineering resources from running technology infrastructure – all without sacrificing operational performance, reliability, or security.”

“Cloud computing strikes me as a perfect tool to help achieve greater transparency and accountability,’’ said Earl Devaney, the Board’s Chairman. “Moving to the cloud allows us to provide better service at lower costs. I hope this development will inspire other government entities to accelerate their own efforts. The American taxpayers would be the winners.”

Increased security?

In addition, board officials said security improvements from the move include greater protection against network attacks and real time detection of system tampering. In essence, Amazon’s computer security platform has been added to the Board’s own security system, which the Board’s staff will continue to maintain and operate.

“Recovery.gov is a terrific example of Gov 2.0 at work and highlights the interoperable nature of cloud computing,” Teresa Carlson, vice president of Microsoft Federal, said in a statement. The portal offers citizens the kind of transparency this administration advocates – using Microsoft SharePoint for content management, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft SQL Server for relational data storage and reporting, and additional visualisation solutions.”

Meanwhile, also in a statement, Dangermond, president of Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), said:  “Recovery.gov broke new ground in citizen participation in government and is now a pioneer in moving to the cloud. Opening government and sharing data through GIS are strengthening democratic processes of the nation. The Recovery Board had the foresight to see the added value of empowering citizens to look at stimulus spending on a map, to explore their own neighborhoods, and overlay spending information with other information. This is much more revealing than simply presenting lists and charts and raises the bar for other federal agencies.”

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