WASHINGTON - Lawmakers see a lot of potential in cloud deployment, but are uncertain what role Congress should take in encouraging its development.

U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) said he believes cloud use could allow governments to "reduce their massive taxpayer-funded IT budgets" by migrating some workloads to cloud providers.

But Quayle, at a hearing on cloud computing today, also noted that broadband networks would need to be "up to the task of handling the massive amounts of data" that will be transmitted.

Quayle, who heads the House Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, assembled a panel of IT executives for advice on the types of things the government should and shouldn't do to facilitate cloud deployment.

Dan Reed, vice president of Microsoft's Technology Policy Group, said more investment is needed to build networks that can support higher data rates. Reed said there is a mismatch in the ability of networks to handle information and the amount of information cloud providers can actually deliver.

He went on to encourage basic research spending in several areas such as improving current data rates and on high bandwidth data sharing over wireless spectrum.

In terms of regulation, IT industry groups have been urging Congress to leave the cloud industry alone alone.

Michael Capellas, chairman and CEO of the Virtual Computing Environment Co., said that in terms of government use of cloud, procurement rules should be changed to enable cross collaboration. That could involve, for instance, allowing four agencies to create one cloud rather than each agency doing individual clouds.

Standardization is also important, although the private sector will drive most that, the panelists said.

But when it comes to security, "the federal government will help drive the security around protecting information in the cloud," said Nick Combs, federal chief technology officer at EMC.

The White House has adopted a "cloud first" policy, and has estimated that the government can eventually move 25% of its IT spending to the cloud.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .

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