Top WH tech official: Federal agencies could compute in cloud, too

The federal government could someday rely heavily on Web companies to handle its e-mail, word-processing and spreadsheet demands, according to Vivek Kundra, the White House's top technology official.

In an interview Thursday with BusinessWeek, Kundra said he envisioned a time when federal government could do much of its computing in the cloud. That arrangement would permit federal officials to share information better between agencies, and even to share some of that content with the public, he said.

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“As long as these companies address security, we’re going to be shifting our resources toward cloud computing,” Kundra said, stressing the federal government would still have to own a majority of its computer systems.

Vivek ultimately declined to say which companies might be best suited for government-based cloud computing. But that did not stop one of the private sphere's most likely contenders, Microsoft, from issuing an early statement in praise.

‘“We are excited to see the U.S. federal government embrace the cloud and expect it will further boost confidence among businesses of all sizes to do the same,” Ron Markezich, vice president of Microsoft Online, told BusinessWeek.

(Update, 4:32 p.m.) Google later followed suit, telling The Hill on Thursday that cloud computing could "dramatically lower" the federal government's IT costs. The company also said it was in the process of obtaining federal security certification for many of the tools that comprise Google Apps.

"Applications built for the cloud, like Google Apps, will help government employees to collaborate together and be more productive -- and the government saves money as well," said David Mihalchik, Federal Business Development Manager for Google.