Federal Cloud Computing Deployment Models

Cloud computing is defined to have multiple deployment models, each having specific compromises for agencies migrating services and operations to cloud-based environments. Due to the different characteristics and compromises of the various cloud computing deployment models, it is important that the agency’s IT professionals have a clear understanding of their agency’s specific needs as well as how the different systems can help them meet those needs. NIST’s official cloud computing definition outlines four cloud deployment models: private, community, public and hybrid. Let’s look at some of the key differences.

Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is intended for the exclusive use of a single organization that includes multiple consumers (business units, for example). It can be owned, managed and operated by the organization, a third party or a combination of them, and it can exist in or outside premises

Generally, federal agencies and departments choose private clouds when sensitive or mission-critical information is concerned. The private cloud enables increased security, reliability, performance and service. Yet, like other types of clouds, it maintains the ability to scale quickly and only pay for what is used when provided by a third party, which also makes it economical.

An example of a private cloud expansion model that has been relatively recently implemented in the federal government was implemented by Los Alamos National Laboratory, which provides researchers with access and use of servers as needed.

Community sky. The cloud infrastructure is intended for the exclusive use of a specific community of consumers by organizations that share common concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It can be owned, managed and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party or a combination of them, and it can exist in or outside premises.

The community cloud implementation model is ideal and optimized for agencies or independent organizations that share common concerns and therefore need access to shared and mutual records and other types of stored information.

Examples may include a community dedicated to compliance considerations or a community focused on security requirements policy.

Public cloud. The general public supplies the cloud infrastructure for open use. It can be owned, managed and operated by a business, academic or government organization or a combination of them. It can be found in the cloud provider’s premises.

The public cloud deployment model has the unique advantage of being significantly more secure than accessing information over the Internet and tends to cost less than private clouds because services are more commoditized.

A study by the Government Information Group 1105 found that federal agencies interested in public clouds are most often interested in the following four functions:


Social network



An example of a public cloud deployment model-based solution is the Treasury Department, which has moved its website Treasury.gov to a public cloud using Amazon’s EC2 cloud service to host the site and its applications. The site features social media attributes, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, which allow for quick and effective communication with constituents.

Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composite of two or more different cloud deployment models (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g. Cloud bursting for load balance) between clouds).

Large sections of agencies that have already transitioned some processes to cloud-based computing solutions have used hybrid cloud capabilities. Few companies have the opportunity to switch over all their IT services at once. The hybrid option allows for a mix of base and cloud settings for easier transition.

NASA is an example of a federal agency using the Hybrid Cloud deployment model. Its Nebula open source cloud computing project uses a private cloud for research and development as well as a public cloud for shared datasets with external partners and the public.

The hybrid cloud computing deployment model option has also proven to be the option for state and local governments as well, with states such as Michigan and Colorado already declaring their cloud computing intentions with plans illustrating hybrid cloud deployment models.