Four years ago, I helped the then-U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra spur the federal move to the cloud. Four years later, we are seeing some of the necessary tools become available to make that a truly smart move.

In 2011, through the TechAmerica Foundation, we put together the cleverly named "Commission on the Leadership Opportunity in U.S. Deployment of the Cloud," or CLOUD2.

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The commission was formed with 71 corporate and academic experts — co-chaired by Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff and former VCE CEO Michael Capellas — to produce a report with 14 specific recommendations to improve the trust, transnational data flows, transparency and transformational power of the cloud model.

Only one of the 14 recommendations mentioned metrics — calling for transparency on basic metrics by the private-sector seller, as well as the development of new metrics by government and industry.

The thought was that the main challenge would be to get the massive federal enterprise moving to the cloud. Metrics could come later.

A critic might have said at the time, "Ready, fire, aim!"

Today at least one innovative company in the private sector is stepping up to provide critical real-time metrics for cloud and hosting environments. Austin, Texas-based Krystallize Technologies says the question is no longer "Should we move to the cloud?" Rather, the question is "What is my quality of service?"

Krystallize CEO Clinton France explains.

"Given the constant state of change within cloud services, an outcome-based quality of service measure is desperately needed. Critical services can be tested, baseline/benchmarked, monitored and measured to see [that] the quality of service is the same on day 1,000 as it was on day one."

The metrics are captured in a new service called Krystallize CloudQoS™ that provides an enterprise with transparency into the cloud.

Going forward, federal CIOs are more likely to be asking about capability, rather than mere availability. In other words, "availability" does not equal "quality."

Looking at the "availability" of the cloud services is like looking at airline seats. The seats are oversold, given the probability that not everyone will show up for the flight. But what happens to your service when everyone does show up? Do you get left behind due to your services being overcommitted?

Indeed, Krystallize publishes the CloudQoS™ Index that shows performance levels do in fact differ across cloud providers and also within cloud providers. And because those performance levels vary, that affects both quality and the total cost of the application.

Smart information technology (IT) buyers are moving to the cloud for savings, but now there is more to the equation than just a published priced. The smart IT buyer needs to be inquiring about the quality of service as well: Does a cloud service provider consistently deliver the key capabilities, and are they provided reliably and predictably over time?

"Cloud first" was the right rallying cry four years ago. But today, perhaps it should be "cloud quality first."

Bond is a former under secretary of Commerce for technology and a former CEO of the trade association TechAmerica. Today he is president and CEO of Bond & Associates, a technology and healthcare lobbying firm with offices in Washington and Silicon Valley.