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USDA Plows New Ground, Becomes Cloud Service Provider

The USDA has been certified to provide IaaS and PaaS under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program

Technology sure does make strange bedfellows.

The federal government's newest cloud service provider is one that may elicit surprise. It's the same agency that oversees farm policy and food safety - the US Department of Agriculture.

The USDA has been certified to provide Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platforms as a Service (PaaS) under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, a rigorous security-approval program overseen by the General Services Administration. The USDA now offers FedRAMP-certified cloud services to other federal agencies, as well as to state and local government, via its National Information Technology Center.

It's the latest example of an emerging cloud model, called shared clouds, in which one government agency gets the most from its data center resources by making them available to other agencies, according to an article on Forbes.com. The USDA offers virtualized desktops and servers, storage, networking, databases, and content management as cloud services.

Shared clouds are the result of two federal mandates that have a natural synergy: the Cloud Computing Strategy, released in 2011, and the IT Shared Services Strategy, introduced last year by Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel. The combination of those two policies should lead to increased efficiencies and cost savings by consolidating usage on shared cloud infrastructure.

Midmarket Execs: Cloud Has Bright Prospects Despite Initial Concerns
When IT executives and directors turn their gaze to the future, what they see, aside from visions of record-setting Initial Public Offerings, is the benefits of cloud computing.

Cloud computing is considered the future model for IT by 87 percent of respondents to a midmarket business survey conducted by Evolve IP, a cloud services provider.

The survey shows executives and IT directors value cloud services more than IT managers do. They also plan to spend more on cloud services than IT managers despite disaster avoidance, scalability and flexibility benefits, according to an article on eWEEK.com. The biggest adoption barrier is still security issues. Seventy percent of C-level, vice president and IT director-level survey respondents and 53 percent of IT managers in the mid-market call themselves cloud believers, according to the survey of more than 1,100 IT survey respondents at mid-market companies in North America.

Despite the high interest in cloud computing for mid-market companies, the survey data indicates that "more education and proofs of concept will be required to settle internal battles between premise advocates and cloud believers," said Evolve IP.

"The survey data reflects what we see in our business every day," Guy Fardone, general manager and chief operating officer, Evolve IP, said in a statement. "Most organizations already have at least one hosted service running but in some organizations not everyone is in complete alignment regarding putting all of their services in the cloud."

The survey also reveals that 69 percent of executives plan on spending more on cloud services while 52 percent of IT managers expect to see a budget increase. While 54 percent of respondents believe that their IT staffs are able to implement a cloud strategy, only 31 percent will do it on their own.

Rackspace Android Mobile App Now Supports OpenStack Cloud
Rackspace
, the cloud and server hosting provider with a heavy commitment to OpenStack, is setting its sights on mobile computing. The company announced the release of an enhanced Android app that lets users manage Rackspace OpenStack clouds from anywhere.

The company announced the updated app, which is available from Google Play, a few days ago, according to an article on TheVarGuy.com. The biggest new feature is support for creating and managing cloud servers in Rackspace's "next-generation" OpenStack platform. Previously, the app supported this functionality only for servers on the company's legacy cloud service.

The updated app also benefits from interface and stability enhancements, as well as the ability "to manage multiple accounts; reboot, rename, resize and rebuild servers; change root passwords; check system status; ping servers from multiple data centers; and call Rackspace support directly from the app," according to Rackspace.

Rackspace is billing the app as evidence of its commitment to be "more fanatical in how we approach the app and support - it's been built to provide an easy-to-use experience backed by the support and performance that you've come to expect from us."

More Stories By Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke is a writer and editor based in the greater New York area and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

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