Amazon wants the government in its cloud

Posted by David Gomez

Amazon is now offering cloud-based services to the U.S. government.

In the past, government agencies were unable to store sensitive data that was subject to compliance regulations like International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which dictates how organizations maintain defense-related data.

But Amazon's GovCloud is (supposedly) only accessible by authorized personnel within the United States - both physically and logically. As such, government agencies are now able to manage strictly regulated data in the cloud while complying with federal requirements.
    
The new cloud space offers the same high level of protection as other Amazon cloud regions and supports existing security controls and certifications.
 
Amazon Web Services (AWS) resources launched from GovCloud are available on-demand, meaning agencies will pay only for what they use. This will allow the U.S. government to take advantage of GovCloud’s flexibility, scalability and low cost.
    
"In March of 2010, the U.S. Recovery and Accountability Transparency Board became the first government-wide agency to migrate to a cloud-based technology infrastructure when it moved Recovery.gov to AWS. In one budget cycle alone, the Recovery and Accountability board was able to save $750,000," said Amazon rep Teresa Carlson.

"Today, over 100 government agencies are taking advantage of AWS and we're excited to continue working with agencies as they implement the Federal Cloud First policy to become more efficient, agile, and innovative through more effective use of technology infrastructure. AWS GovCloud is the next step in that evolution."

Of course, Amazon’s cloud services do not come without potential drawbacks and risks. Can the U.S. government afford to deal with such issues if their agencies begin to move more of their data to GovCloud?

For example, failures at AWS' cloud-computing infrastructure have brought down the websites of some online operations, like Quora and Reddit, for a few days. Also, cloud services in general are considered a free-for-all by many and experts think the industry needs stricter policing to keep information safe from prying eyes and malware.

Is it wise for the U.S government to utilize a data service that has had many serious issues in the past? No one can say for sure, but it is fair to raise these questions as they are a subject of constant debate amongst computer and information security experts.