The Troposphere

Jul 27 2009   3:53PM GMT

Cloud computing surfaces in local politics

CarlBrooks Carl Brooks Profile: CarlBrooks

In a demonstration of cloud computing’s increasing stature in the real world, Washington state freshman state representative Reuven Carlyle called for scrapping a $300 million data center in favor of cloud computing last week.

“We are deeply troubled by the weakness of the technical and financial support behind this decision, and fear the state is potentially making a $300 million mistake,” Carlyle said in a letter to Governor Christine Gregoire published on Carlyle’s website. Co-written with Representative Hans Dunshee, the letter was first picked up by Pacific Northwest regional news site

In a nutshell, the letter calls for a halt to a bond sale to fund the project and a review of existing cloud services, like “Google, Microsoft, Amazon or others as many companies and governments are doing today.” Further, it argues that the trend in outsourcing data and services is a fait accompli and a better use of taxpayer dollars.

Unfortunately, Carlyle’s letter sometimes reads like it was written by a jingo-happy IT vendor. To wit: “How best to efficiently and effectively move away from hardware-centric, expensive, proprietary, silos of data trapped in old databases to open, transparent, flexible, accessible, customer-oriented applications available via the Internet?” he asks.

(I think we’ve all snoozed through that PowerPoint talk, no?)

This is understandable. Carlyle comes fresh from the communications industry, where silos are not filled with grain and budgets are fine-tuned with an axe, as opposed to government, where silos are more than likely filled with grain and budgets are fed like foie gras geese.

Dunshee appears to be a more traditional politician; interestingly, he lists many unions as backers, groups likely to want state construction dollars.

It’s unclear why Carlyle and Dunshee believe the new IT infrastructure would go to waste. What’s notable, however, is that cloud is now commonplace enough that a politician will throw it out there and hold traditional IT up as the poorer model. That’s a long step in discourse from “cutting edge.”

3  Comments on this Post

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  • Reuvencarlyle
    Carl, You might check out for a more nuanced coverage of the issue. I don't pretend that the cloud is magic or that gov't shouldn't do it internally, only that our state doesn't reallly have a strategy for the $1B we spend a year. We're building this data center but not putting a penny into interoperability, putting open interfaces on our old databases, building/buying applications for real's all back end systems in a fancy new $300M building. Yes, I believe our strategy is a mistake. No, the cloud isn't the only or magic answer. I'm sorry you think my letter reads like an advertisement, maybe that's because paying $15 a month per user (that would be for 110,000 employees I might add) to host Exchange should be an advertisement for privately run system...instead, it's a nightmare for taxpayers. I'm just sayin'. Reuven Carlyle Washington State Representative
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  • Reuvencarlyle
    ops, shows you my IT lack of knowledge...didn't realize links don't work here. Sorry. :-)
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  • Brianw168
    Thanks for comenting on the post! Don't worry, I've also attempted (and failed) to post links in my own blog. ;) here's a shortened version of the link for others interested in the longer story: I hope I didn't come across as too down on your letter; I found your efforts and your approach to the issue extremely interesting (partly because of your business background, as noted) and I certainly appreciate the arguments you're making- I wonder if the political and governmental enterprises of the State of Washington can? I wanted to point out the contrast between the business mentality- which is efficiency, practicality and forward thinking, vs. the governmental mentatlity, which is not. Hope to carry the conversation further, Carl Brooks
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