How feds helped Amazon make cloud ‘the new normal’

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LAS VEGAS — The relationship between the federal government and Amazon Web Services is going through a growth spurt.

Amazon Web Services announced Wednesday that it has added 1,000 agencies of various levels of government to its public sector portfolio, more than doubling the number using its cloud services for their IT operations.

WIT_Teresa_Carlson
Teresa Carlson, vice president of worldwide public sector at Amazon Web Services

“I really think that cloud is the new normal for government today,” Teresa Carlson, vice president of worldwide public sector at Amazon Web Services, told FedScoop at the company’s re:Invent conference Wednesday. “I don’t think we are going to back.”

Amazon has helped several federal agencies evolve past pilot projects and embrace cloud for a range of operations: The CIA now has its own private cloud through AWS; the Department of Health and Human Services uses AWS to host the Healthcare.gov marketplace; and the Department of Energy uses the Amazon cloud to house data at its National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

More agencies are hopping on board, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, which announced a $39 million contract with Reston-based Blue Canopy to build the agency’s advanced analytics capabilities on AWS.

“When you see customers moving from beyond infrastructure tools into things like database services and data warehousing tools, and up the stack with work mail and work docs, you know they are evolving in the use of cloud,” Carlson said.

Sue Gordon, the deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said her agency’s cloud adoption stems from need to meet the demand of the federal community that uses its services.

“The conditions in which we must execute our mission have changed remarkably,” Gordon said. “Our customers and the nature of their needs have changed. If we’re going to be good, we have to meet them where they are on the new landscape.”

The NGA is also delivering services to people it never before considered. In the past year, the agency has stood up two open data repositories that have been used by groups responding to the Ebola crisis in Liberia and the Nepal earthquake.

“There is so much more going on between the land borders that must be able to be understood if we are to be able to put what we see in the context of what somebody needs to know,” she said.

Lawmakers have been pressuring agencies across government to do more to embrace the cloud, and analysts have said that agencies are warming to the idea.

Carlson said the use of cloud in federal enterprises will only increase as changes to procurement become commonplace.

“A lot of the procurements now, they have a dollar value and a ceiling, but they really don’t know what they’ll consume yet,” she said. “I think that’s a significant event toward changing the dynamics of where they’re taking their enterprise design and architecture.”

The changes in procurement is something Carlson sees as driving the future of cloud within the government.

“If you think of the concept of true on-demand IT services, if there is a marketplace put up where the services are priced in a model that [is] commercially viable, then government can make decisions and try technologies in a small way without mass procurements,” she said. “I believe you are going to see more of an open procurement model, you’re going to see mission-driven applications that are going to scale very rapidly and mission individuals are going to take advantage based on the needs they have.”

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Amazon Web Services, Cloud Computing & Networking, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Tech, Teresa Carlson
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