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Tech industry takes cloud-computing roadmap to Washington

TechAmerica Foundation, a non-profit lobbying group representing the U.S. technology industry, has put together a commission of company executives and other industry representatives to make recommendations to the Obama administration on the correct deployment and use of cloud computing. It is also recommending the development of public policies that will help drive U.S. innovation in the cloud.

The TechAmerica Foundation commission has also put together a “Cloud First Buyer’s Guide for Government” that makes it easy for any business to intelligently consider the benefits of cloud-based services.

On its website, under the heading “The Cloud is Unstoppable,” the group says that “the U.S. Government is on the brink of a major shift to cloud computing. Like the private sector, the Government has realized that cloud computing can dramatically reduce IT costs while significantly improving performance and accelerating innovation.”

In the past three months, a collection of 71 executives, called the “Commission on the Leadership Opportunity in U.S. Deployment of the Cloud (CLOUD2),” has developed a “cloud computing roadmap” that provides detailed recommendations regarding the optimal deployment of cloud-based solutions across a broad array of government programs and agencies.

The group — led by execs like Marc Benioff, co-chairman and CEO of; Michael Capellas, chairman and CEO of VCE; and John Mallery, of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT — said the roadmap will help guide the federal government’s efforts to adopt cloud computing technologies, and institute policies and practices that “will keep the United States on the forefront of computing innovation.”

Among the 45 companies involved in the TechAmerica Foundation commission are some of the biggest names in technology, such as Adobe Systems, Cisco Systems, EMC, Google, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and Verizon.

Last week, some members of the group presented its report in person to Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer. Commercial-facing recommendations were also shared with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Commerce Under Secretary Pat Gallagher.

One of those members was Peter Csathy, CEO of Sorensen Media, a compression technology provider in San Diego, CA. Sorenson Media was the only video workflow solutions company invited to participate on the CLOUD2 commission, with Csathy serving as commissioner and David Dudas, the company’s vice president of Video Solutions, as deputy commissioner for the project.

Since the company’s formation in 1995, Sorenson Media has been at the forefront of video innovation, creating foundational video technologies that established video within Apple Quicktime, Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash and YouTube. Now the company is playing a similar role in the development of video cloud computing by bringing its Sorenson Squeeze encoding engine and related technologies to the cloud with Sorenson Squeeze Server and Squeeze Solution Pack, both enterprise-level cloud-based video encoding and delivery solutions.

“We need to be practical and pragmatic,” Csathy said. “We cannot be ‘pie in the sky.’ A memorialized roadmap moves the government beyond mere pronouncements and into the realm of reality.”

The CLOUD2 Commission has detailed a number of issues surrounding cloud computing, including the thorny issues of system security and fault tolerance. Csathy said they have addressed these issues “head-on” in their recommendations, reports and the “Buyer’s Guide.”

“The bottom line is that cloud-based solutions can be highly secure and stable,” he said. “Much depends on the relevant service provider. As one example, my company, Sorenson Media, already provides cloud-bases solutions for Technicolor and other media and entertainment companies. As you can imagine, extremely high levels of security and stability are necessary when the relevant content is motion picture and television content that costs millions of dollars to produce and must be kept under wraps until release date. We developed innovative new security measures specifically tailored for these needs. Suffice it to say, these levels of security are analogous to the levels of security needed for government cloud-bases solutions.”

Another cause for debate regarding cloud computing is the capacity threshold of the nation’s public or private Internet pipelines to make it practical and support this growing trend. The potentially huge demand has given rise to a host of tech companies that are supporting the “infrastructure as a service” business, including Akamai, EdgeCast, Limelight and Highwinds, to name a few. According to TechAmerica Foundation, many tech companies have designed infrastructures that can accommodate the required scalability on a massive scale, and they continue to invest to meet the needs of business.

There’s also a need for standards to facilitate interoperability between different systems and networks.

“Widespread standards ultimately will be necessary to maximize the overall realization of cloud-based benefits,” Csathy said. “This will not happen overnight. Right now, the most critical standards to the video production industry should be selection of a long-term video solutions partner with proven technology, as well as proven and long-standing expertise and innovation. [Media companies] have to make a commitment to partner for the long-term, and assess the long-term viability of the relevant chosen partner, so that the specific business is not left in a lurch in the future.”

So, what does all of this talk about the cloud mean to a chief engineer at a local TV station?

Csathy provided three reasons why terrestrial broadcasters should research the technology and explore what it can do for them:

· Cloud-based services will be overseen and driven by an outside expert service provider, thereby freeing you up to focus on your job (and not having to learn an increasingly complex new one)
· Cloud-based services will not require you to pay for and set up expensive servers and infrastructure. In other words, you will only need to pay for what you need. This also saves you tremendous time in establishing the capabilities you need.
· Cloud-based services are far more flexible. The local TV station will be able to benefit from real-time upgrades to the service that mirror new realities in the marketplace, such as video formats.

“Our goal here, in part, was to give businesses a blueprint to follow so that too much pressure was not placed on already stretched IT departments to be experts in everything,” Csathy said. “Cloud-based services should make it easier and more cost effective for the enterprise, not harder.”