As its current contract for web hosting services in the cloud comes to an end this year, the Department of Treasury has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to learn more about new technologies and services now available in the cloud computing marketplace. The current contract was set for 12 months with a one-year extension to set up web hosting services and web site redesign with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
According to a July 3, 2012 article in ZNET, while the storm on June 30, 2012 precipitated the failure of Amazon’s AWS systems based in its northern Virginia facility, it appears that bugs in the system caused a failure in the redirection of data to backup services. The article cites Yale academic Brian Ford, who wrote a paper warning cloud service providers about the potential effects of such failures. The reporter proposes that third parties should review and test cloud products to help customers make informed choices when selecting a cloud services provider. This is not the first time that the AWS system has encountered difficulties. In April 2011, outages were reported which affected sites including Reddit.com, GroupMe.com and Quora.com, and on June 14, 2012, similar problems were encountered affecting several companies including Heroku, Parse and Pinterest.
While Amazon has had problems dealing with severe storms, according to a post in Forbes on July 2, 2012, another cloud provider in the area was “generally unaffected by the storms.” But power outages to cloud computing datacenters will occur, and appropriate precautions should be taken. According to a July 5, 2012 article in Jitscale, organizations should not depend on a single datacenter for all of their cloud computing needs, but instead design their system with built-in redundancy. This is a “take-away” that government agencies like Treasury should consider when putting forth RFIs and Request For Proposals (RFPs).
As with any technology tool, there will be problems that need to be worked through and unexpected bugs to work out. Based on the information it receives by 10:00 a.m. EDT on Monday, July 16, 2012, it is anticipated that Treasury will submit an RFP in the near future for various cloud computing services that will include new technologies discovered through the RFI process.
To help government agencies navigate the pitfalls of cloud investments, Citizens Against Government Waste has published two issue briefs to encourage the use of best practices when modernizing information technology systems: Cloud Computing 101: A Brief Introduction, and Cloud Computing 201: Guidelines for Successful Cloud Investments.