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USDA Services Moving To the Microsoft Cloud

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the you-got-microsoft-all-over-my-government dept.

Government 146

JoltinJoe77 writes "Not to be outdone by Google, who recently announced an e-mail deal with the GSA, Microsoft is pressing forward with a migration of its own. 'The US Department of Agriculture is ready to go live with Microsoft's cloud services. In the next four weeks, the agency will move 120,000 users to Microsoft Online services, including e-mail, Web conferencing, document collaboration, and instant messaging.'"

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Obligatory (5, Funny)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495228)

Farm services server farm?

Re:Obligatory (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495262)

Cloud -> Rain/Computing?

Re:Obligatory (3, Funny)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495934)

No, clearly the move to Cloud computing was all to block Sun. Except Oracle's acquiring Sun, so I'm sure they saw that coming...

And I've got the "Dirt" on their new Google Earth competitor: Micro, Soft Earth. Perfect for farmers.

Re:Obligatory (3, Funny)

bami (1376931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495668)

Server farm services farm servers.

I'm pretty sure there is a barn somewhere with a bar, using something provided by the USDA.

Re:Obligatory (2)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495842)

Government workers sitting around all day playing Farmville on spare servers from the farm service's server farm!

I didn't know USDA were cork soakers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495246)

streamlined cork soakers

FTA: "separate, secure facility" (4, Interesting)

base3 (539820) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495294)

SInce the USDA's services are going to be delivered from a "separate, secure facility," this doesn't seem so much about the cloud as just a standard outsourcing arrangement.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

jernejk (984031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495334)

Exactly. This is - interestingly - aligned with Oracle's "private cloud" vision.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495388)

Really? Christ.

Microsoft Corp. Cloud Services! brought to you in association with Danger, Inc. For industry-leading uptime and security.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495408)

WhatCanPossiblyGoWrong

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495726)

In MS speak, Cloud often means "just hosted" - there's not really a service model.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

cantcomplain (1604473) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495914)

How can you say "hosted" is not a service model? I think it you looked up "epitome" in the dictionary, it would show a picture of a hosted server farm and a service model.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496200)

Cloud really means "distributed service", that is a high level simplified definition.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34496308)

you are pretty fucking stupid or don't know how to research.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495450)

My first thought is: how long until we see USDA-leaks. And that might not be a bad thing.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (5, Funny)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495582)

Microsoft cloud services will be just as awesome as Sharepoint!

egads.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495752)

Awww, come on now. Sharepoint is a wonderful money maker for those who support it :) There's good in everything!

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496694)

Sharepoint *used* to be a wonderful money maker for those who support it. Now it will be the foot in the door that Microsoft uses to sell your CIO on outsourced services. Microsoft will simply promise that they can rid an organization of all if its expensive Sharepoint and Exchange admins.

If you are a Windows admin then I welcome you to the new world where Microsoft is not only your software provider, it is also your chief competitor.

Well good luck with Azure service vs private cloud (2)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497280)

If you are a Windows admin then I welcome you to the new world where Microsoft is not only your software provider, it is also your chief competitor.

I'm already in that world... I work in the web hosting team for a Fortune 500 company (we host over 1000 websites for our corporation), and we've already got developers spouting off about how they want to use Windows Azure and move everything to the cloud. Why they want that, or what they truly think they are going to gain, I don't know. I think it's just excitement to be part of the latest buzzword trend, and they don't realize that what they already have now is essentially a "private cloud".

It's actually going to be funny if they do get to move to the cloud, because right now whenever things go wrong they blame us, and each time we dig into the issue and point out which part of their code caused the problem. We dig in to the point of doing analysis of memory dumps, often dropping everything to hunt for the problem if it is a critical issue on a big site. Good luck getting that kind of service when your code hosted on Windows Azure breaks.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496450)

Relax. The USDA doesn't do a whole bunch of mission critical crap anyways.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495422)

Replace "Oracle's" with "everyone's" and you are there.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (4, Insightful)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495548)

From the article:

""The USDA requires Microsoft to provide offline access which which we do view as a basic not something vendors can expect somewhere down the line," Rizzo wrote, a dig at Google."

So, the tax-payer is basically paying Microsoft to run a server-farm, access to it both offline and online and software to utilize it. How is this different then the previous arrangement, besides them providing the server farm??

Microsoft will have access to all of the data stored. "But wait!", you might say, "They already have that." The difference here is that now we are GIVING it to them. The data sets that the USDA have on hand are more then just farm reports--they include everything from mortgage arrangements(like my own) to the inner workings of arrangements with companies like Monsanto and ConAgra. Personally, I think such data should be public information but I do not think that any corporation should be privy to such information ALONE.

Do YOU trust Microsoft to stay away from all that shiny information? I don't.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495708)

The difference here is that now we are GIVING it to them.
and renting the US govs data back 24/7 with every linked core getting milked for $ as it connects.
The other interesting point will be all your farm data will now be less private, great for data mining and sharing in bulk by *any* another arm of the US gov.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (2)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496206)

Do YOU trust Microsoft to stay away from all that shiny information? I don't.

I struggle to see any manager looking at the cost/benefit of illegally accessing such information and coming away thinking "go for it".

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (0)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496644)

You might want to go look at the total sales of agriculture in the US...

Here's a hint. It's in the hundreds of billions.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497318)

Well, even if that was good for the company financially, it's hard to believe any company would have a manager so loyal they would be willing to risk certain hard prison time just to help their company get ahead. Even most CEOs who could benefit the most from that wouldn't do it, especially since targetting a US agency would be way worse than most other illegal business things you could do (in terms of the consequences). Depending on which agency it was and what you got into, you could be charged with espionage, or worse, treason, which can get you the death penalty. Plus the company probably loses more than it gains due to fines and litigation. And just because agriculture is a hundred billion dollar a year industry doesn't mean you get enough out of USDA data to justify the risk. Just knowing USDA data doesn't divert that money from John Deere straight to your pocket. I'm agreeing with the grandparent... I find it unlikely that any manager will look at the cost/benefit of illegally accessing that information and come away thinking "go for it."

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34496478)

... Personally, I think such data should be public information but I do not think that any corporation should be privy to such information ALONE.

Maybe we can get it from Wikileaks. Oh wait. Wikileaks only contains data that TERRORISTS and Enemies of Freedom care about.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34496994)

I work for the USDA's Farm Service Agency in their database office and I can tell you that the program data that is collected is NOT part of this deal. There are no plans that I know of to move our databases off of our current SAN and to one managed by Microsoft. From TFA, it appears that this is limited to email and communication services, not database storage.

Security is NOT an issue with The Cloud. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495854)

Wait a minute. I'm a manager, and I've been reading a lot of case studies and watching a lot of webcasts about The Cloud. Based on all of this glorious marketing literature, I, as a manager, have absolutely no reason to doubt the safety of any data put in The Cloud.

The case studies all use words like "secure", "MD5", "RSS feeds" and "encryption" to describe the security of The Cloud. I don't know about you, but that sounds damn secure to me! Some Clouds even use SSL and HTTP. That's rock solid in my book.

And don't forget that you have to use Web Services to access The Cloud. Nothing is more secure than SOA and Web Services, with the exception of perhaps SaaS. But I think that Cloud Services 2.0 will combine the tiers into an MVC-compliant stack that uses SaaS to increase the security and partitioning of the data.

My main concern isn't with the security of The Cloud, but rather with getting my Indian team to learn all about it so we can deploy some first-generation The Cloud applications and Web Services to provide the ultimate platform upon which we can layer our business intelligence and reporting, because there are still a few verticals that we need to leverage before we can move to The Cloud 2.0.

Re:Security is NOT an issue with The Cloud. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34497088)

Nothing is more secure than SOA and Web Services, with the exception of perhaps SaaS.

Ya mean like privately owned/operated/contained servers and storage on a private internal network network is much less secure.

My main concern isn't with the security of The Cloud, but rather with getting my Indian team to learn all about it so we can deploy some first-generation The Cloud applications and Web Services to provide the ultimate platform upon which we can layer our business intelligence and reporting, because there are still a few verticals that we need to leverage before we can move to The Cloud 2.0.

You forgot to mention all the synergistic impactfulness of your core competencies for implementing this revolutionary strategy.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (1)

wmac (1107843) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496012)

Cloud itself does not mean anything. It is just a vision. When you do not know or care about things happening in a server farm you can easily draw it as a cloud :)

Just like Grid. I am living in Grid computing lab of a university for the last 4 years and I believe, Grid does not mean anything. It is more a Buzzword than a technical term.

Re:FTA: "separate, secure facility" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34496458)

Actually Microsoft has BPOS-Federal. This is a multi-tenant cloud solution however it only houses Government customers. Staff that operate this facility are all US citizens, have extra background checks, etc. http://www.bposrocks.com/2010/03/bpos-for-the-public-sector.html

The Cloud (3, Funny)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495296)

The cloud will solve all of our problems.

Re:The Cloud (3, Funny)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495486)

The cloud will solve all of our problems.

Including the State Dept. ones: in 5 years time Wikileaks will go out of business - the documents will be leaking directly from the source.

Re:The Cloud (1)

jon3k (691256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496824)

Yeah I'm sure a bunch of state employees can run a datacenter more securely than microsoft. I hate microsoft as much as the next slashdot poster but have you ever met a state government employee? i'd rather have the security of my data in the hands of a middle school class.

Re:The Cloud (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497026)

I hate microsoft as much as the next slashdot poster but have you ever met a state government employee?

Yes, I have actually met. If you speak of desk-chained ones, you are right. If you speak of the back-office guys, you are right most-of-the-time only. Granted: security is like a chain - strenght given by the weakest link (thus, it can be that all guys except one be brilliant in security matters and still have the chain broken).

On the other side: the motivation of a govt employee stays also in the fact that his very position (and possibly liberty) is at risk if data is lost/leaked (and most of the govt employees are risk adverse, otherwise they'd go into industry). Would the MS employees have the same reactions?

Re:Central Cybernetics (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495754)

Another step back to the 50s. Soon there will be just one central computer for every major city, and everyone connected to it. Just like Science Fiction predicted 60 years ago.

Re:Central Cybernetics (1)

jon3k (691256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496816)

We're already there and that computer is called "the Internet".

Re: that computer is called "the Internet" (2)

rnturn (11092) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497108)

Yeah... It's amazing. It's like the network is the computer.

Trust the cloud! (0)

rasper99 (247555) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495316)

Time to start growing my own food to be safe.

Re:Trust the cloud! (4, Interesting)

jacks0n (112153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495784)

that will be illegal of course.

1. It violates Pharma Industry IP.
2. It violates food safety regulations.
3. Since eating unregulated food is a health risk, we can't give you a health care policy. Oh, and you're required to have one. From us.
4. It's the same as not paying taxes.
5. Your land has been reclassified as protected wetlands.

Re:Trust the cloud! (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496676)

Funny but if you raise crops for use beyond your immediate family you're technically correct on most of those points.

Re:Trust the cloud! (1)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497356)

6. Somewhere, somehow, you may have used eight pounds of unsustainable palm oil from a palm oil farm in Indonesia in your food products, and should therefore be shot.

It is taking FOREVER... (0)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495324)

for me to do a Symantec virus check on the whole MS cloud! This could take a while...

Seriously, good luck with all that migrationess! Irate users are quite quick to point out your failurings. I'll say a quick prayer for your users:

O God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great dispair. Yea, admit these kind and decent users into thy arms of thine heavenly area, up there. And Moab, he lay us upon the band of the Canaanites, and yea, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you: give them a break.

Re:It is taking FOREVER... (1)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496726)

Actually, these are USDA users, most of them probably can not tell the difference between a computer and an etch-a-sketch. The ones that can tell the difference are probably thrilled. The alternative is to have government employees running the data center. Microsoft is a huge step up.

USDA moving to the Microsoft Cloud? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495354)

More all the reason to scramble your eggs, order your steak well done and avoid raw shellfish, cause you know the rock solid Microsoft security is going to keep the USDA files safe from malicious types. *rolls eyes*

Lost in (cyber) space... (0)

Yaa 101 (664725) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495358)

Poor employees... Lost in MS's cloud for eternity...

Re:Lost in (cyber) space... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495534)

Poor employees... Lost in MS's cloud for eternity...

From the "Love the bureaucrats" dept...

That is a real progress: now they can pin-point in which cloud they are lost... in contrast with the current situation in which they are "Just lost in the clouds"

Commercials (2)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495376)

Is this the same cloud that now magically includes Photoshop and VNC/Remote Desktop like in the Windows Live commercials? If so, can I look forward to cloud-enabled potatoes at the grocery store in the near future?

You've seen what they can do to your hard drive, (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495406)

watch what they can do to your food supply.

Re:You've seen what they can do to your hard drive (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495744)

and loss of phone data and your games rentals year after costly year.
Why would any one risk MS?

Purely money motivated (5, Interesting)

Paska (801395) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495410)

The University of Canberra, Australia I am currently attending has in the last several months moved to Microsoft cloud services for e-mail, and calendaring and it's a bit of a joke.

Being friendly with the I.T. department it's clear that the motivation was purely monetary related.

As from a usability standpoint, students hate it. Junk filtering is a complete joke and is a common occurrence for student to teacher emails to not be delivered.

Forwarding simply does not work as advertised, if you have a "Redirect to" and then "Delete" rule one-after the other it's common for the rules to 'switch' around and for the delete to happen first.

The services are constantly down for urgent maintenance, slow and buggy in anything but Firefox (some features completely missing, like being able to create mail rules)/Internet Explorer.

It's a big joke, and I can guarantee you that the USDA decision to move to these services would have come from the top ranks and I.T. made to keep their mouths shut regarding the decision, just like my University.

Re:Purely money motivated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495760)

At OSU, student email is hosted on MS Outlook Live, and I can't stand the web interface. I access it via IMAP using Zimbra Desktop from my laptop, and from elsewhere via web-based Zimbra hosted by a friend on his home server. Yes, going to all that trouble gives me a more palatable interface than Outlook Live.

Re:Purely money motivated (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495762)

They are making "big" moves all over Australia from edu to health.

Re:Purely money motivated (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495826)

As a Forest Service employee currently using Lotus Notes, I look forward to this change.

Re:Purely money motivated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34496372)

Yes, it's much better than Notes. As far as the original post, of course it's about money. The university can use their old email servers for something else and they don't have to provide a mobile solution for the staff/students with smart phones. Yes, junk filtering may not be all that great. However, now all that SPAM is hitting MSFT's machines and not consuming much of the university's network bandwidth. Many sites are going to this sort of solution for that last reason alone because SPAM was the majority of their inbound internet traffic.

Re:Purely money motivated (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495870)

You would be completely wrong in that regard, as the sub-agency that I work for (which is, indeed, shifting from Domino to Exchange along with the rest of the department) settled on the MS BPOS services after looking at the problem from a lot of different angles. Inasmuch as a public university often does have pseudo-governmental oversight in the form of their state legislature's laws, your experiences at your university do not in any way bear a resemblance to what the Dept of Ag is attempting to do. There is a pretty draconian SLA in place that will certainly bode ill for MS if their five 9's doesn't appear in practice.

Plus, there are *much* bigger issues at stake, such as legal requirements to capture and retain all email traffic for a given window of time. MS is agreeing to provide this service as a feature of their offering rather than forcing us to develop a massive internal data warehouse of all mail traffic that keeps everything for five years or more. (No, seriously. That's some of the crap we have to deal with.)

Probably the biggest selling point is that it is incredibly difficult... practically impossible... to fundamentally restructure a government agency along a whole new software platform. Don't just think about the email servers and clients. Think about the budget lines, the personnel teams, the fact that we don't have any internal SMEs for this new platform. Adding new FTEs to the government right now is nearly impossible. I've heard that USDA took a billion-dollar cut for the 11-12 fiscal cycle, which means adding expensive new teams is a non-starter. Plus, should we try to internalize these efforts, we'd have to go through the on-boarding of many contractors and the effort of standing up servers & SAN infrastructure at NITC. You have no idea how expensive it is to contract colo for servers at a GSA facility. The numbers of the MS contract are big, but the cost of doing it internally would probably be twice as much over the same period with poorer service.

It is true that many folks in the trenches have reservations, but no-one is arguing that we should continue to lumber along with Notes and Domino. In fact, there have been a small percentage of the staff who have requested that they be allowed to use Outlook, based upon the fact that Notes is a horribly byzantine email client.

So to sum up: Your cynicism is somewhat misplaced. And comparing your university of 10K students against our situation isn't very apropos, as just my agency is over four times as big as your entire university.

Re:Purely money motivated (2)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497396)

You guys could probably hire some more full time employees if you'd just fire some of the worthless ones. But I'm sure government unions prevent any of that from taking place. That and the fact that government never goes through a recession with the rest of the country, so you don't have to make the really deep cuts that would force you to be more efficient. Even a 1 billion dollar cut is nothing compared to the proportional cuts and restructiong going on in much of the private sector these last few years.

Sorry to be so cynical, but I hate big government. Not government, and not necessarilly every function that the government does, but I definitely hate big government, and most of all big government unions. All I ever seem to do is pay them to set my tax dollars ablaze.

Re:Purely money motivated (1)

Dputiger (561114) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496220)

What's wrong with a financial motivation? There are always problems and bugs associated with changing providers for any major business, regardless of what you're switching from or to. Chances are that most of the problems you're experiencing will be ironed out in the months to come. Yes, people will probably have to change the way they've done things, possibly change filtering rules, etc--but that's just life.

Re:Purely money motivated (2)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496230)

I've been arguing with customers for years that moving thick clients to web applications almost always makes deep, unacceptable sacrifices to basic usability, but everyone's all "web 2.0" this and "cloud" that. Look at how amazing these JavaScript frameworks are. We can do anything a thick client can do. Oh, really? Pfff. Not from where I'm looking. Forget the users, I guess.

Re:Purely money motivated (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496414)

But apart from all that, is it OK?

Re:Purely money motivated (2)

TClevenger (252206) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496810)

Yup. There's also a lot of administrative tasks you simply can't do--the inability to give one user full access to another user's mailbox being a glaring example. Apptix, though slower and clunkier, is a much more complete solution for hosted Exchange/Sharepoint.

Re:Purely money motivated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34497340)

Forwarding simply does not work as advertised, if you have a "Redirect to" and then "Delete" rule one-after the other it's common for the rules to 'switch' around and for the delete to happen first.

Wow! MS Cloud Services supports out-of-order rule execution!

MS commercial... (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495438)

The 'to the cloud' commercials annoy me. But the one in particular where the traveling couple gets delayed and RDPs to their specific home computer and watches a local recording remotely goes to show how the 'cloud' word is completely meaningless.

Ranks down there with the AT&T commercial that says 'the original name for the internet was the world wide web'. ARRGGHHHH.

Re:MS commercial... (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495954)

The 'to the cloud' commercials annoy me.

Wrong cloud.

Look, those misleading commercials piss me off too, but I've found a mitigation technique.

Every time you hear: "To The Cloud!" Just imagine the camera zooms out to reveal a city wide flash of brightness, followed by a boiling mushroom shaped cloud, and a few seconds later, the sonic shock wave.

Wikileaks (2)

z4ns4stu (1607909) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495454)

I guess now we know which government agency is going to have the next big document release on WikiLeaks...

Re:Wikileaks (5, Funny)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496236)

Wikileaks Targets USDA
New York Times Staff Writer

Fresh off the release of thousands of private State Department diplomatic cables, Wikileaks has announced that it has obtained over 35,000 confidential records from the US Department of Agriculture. According to spokesman Julian Assange, Wikileaks has been reviewing the documents for the past several months, and intends to release them on Sunday, following the Superbowl halftime commercial break. Assange, who has recently battled charges of sexual assault in Sweden, pedophilia in Britain, adultery in Saudi Arabia, male prostitution in Sri Lanka, public masturbation in Mozambique, and felony jaywalking in Turkmenistan, claims that these new leaks are "among the most important we've ever released."

The New York Times received advance copies of the leaked documents from a third party. From a preliminary review of the documents, here are some highlights:

* In November of 2009, a USDA investigator discovered that despite advertising claims, the ingredients of Snapple's chilled tea beverages were not, in fact, "the best stuff on Earth." The USDA pressured Snapple to improve the quality of its ingredients,

* Investigators discovered in June 2010 that a cattle ranch in Chugwater, Wyoming did not have any signs of mad cow disease, despite neighbors' claims that, "Ol' Bill cows make crazy, crazy good barbeque."

* In the minutes from private discussions, Secretary of Agricultre Tom Vilsack is on the record as saying, "Man, that Lindsay Lohan is too skinny. Way too skinny. She's drinking slim milk, she should be dirnking 2%." Key officials alleged that the white "mustache" below Ms. Lohan's nose was not, in fact, milk.

Although the source for the leak is not known, analysts suspect that Wikileaks obtained the documents when a team of hackers, operating out of a suburban basement filled with toy miniatures and Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, was able to break into the USDA's cloud hosting service. The service, which is maintained by Microsoft, is reported to have suffered from a fatal security vulnerability when all of its servers simultaneously crashed with a "blue screen of death."

The government has already issued a release to all federal employees stating that, "these documents are not to be read during work hours" and that they remain confidential, despite the fact that they are no longer confidential.

The Justice Department would not make any official statements on the new leak, claiming that it is "part of an ongoing federal investigation that we're serious about, no, really, we're not kidding around, we're actually serious, please stop laughing." However, a source from within the Justice Department, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said that, "We will [expletive] murder Julian Assange. We will slice his [expletive] neck open and drink his blood to give us power over our enemies. Then we're gonna drag his corpse into the office, and beat it with out [expletives] like a pinata, and [expletive] on it. Whoever [expletives] last has to buy a round of drinks for the rest of the guys."

Said Assange, "With this release, we come ever closer to overthrowing the despotic American government and its unjust, tyrannical, wicked form of mixed capitalism and representative democracy. The people shall rise up against the machine, and at last seize the means of production! The revolution is nigh, dear comrades, for victory will come to those who spread Truth to the masses! Death to America! Death to Smoochy! AI-YEEE!!!"

Very large company ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34495460)

A very large company was told to use Microsoft's Azure Cloud this after a few high-up decision makers had a game of golf with some Microsoft people. Obviously, a computer server is just a computer server and since MS has some of those, it will work.

WRONG.

60,000+ servers inside that company are UNIX (Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, Linux, etc) and those programs don't run under Windows-whatever-the-name-is-this-year. When the technical architecture team got to Redmond and asked about that, the Microsoft tech guys agreed - there was no way to accomplish what was in their contract.

People that make technical decisions over golf probably shouldn't be allowed to make any decisions at all. I've seen it with other decisions at the company too. BEA was very happy after a golf game a few years ago.

BTW, the Microsoft "cloud" deployment was canned completely (not just scaled back to Windows-Servers-only). I hope that S-VP was sacked too.

Re:Very large company ... (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495522)

And blacklisted as well. I thank my lucky stars that our SVP of IT is just a gadget freak and willing to do cutting edge rather than an idiot like in your example. He hates vendors and actually listens to his technical people when they bring up legitimate technical concerns.

a very desirable employer (1)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496968)

...our SVP of IT is just a gadget freak and willing to do cutting edge rather than an idiot like in your example. He hates vendors and actually listens to his technical people when they bring up legitimate technical concerns.

Care to tell those of us looking for work what company you work for?

Concerned... (3, Insightful)

rs1n (1867908) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495468)

I am a bit concerned that what appears to be an entire agency moving its operations toward complete dependency on a single commercial entity. It doesn't matter if the USDA were to use Google's cloud, or anyone else's cloud. What happens when said cloud "runs out of steam" so to speak -- meaning if there are problems with the cloud itself, you've essentially got an entire agency dead in the water. At least with the current setup, there are natural stop-gaps that prevent complete technical disasters. The operations of one department theoretically would not shut down the entire agency.

There is a lot of short-sightedness in thinking that the short-term savings on IT costs will outweigh the cost of recovering from even one day of said cloud being inaccessible. Of course, I write this with absolutely no consideration for any redundancy systems that are built into the cloud. But what good is the redundancy when the cloud becomes the target of a massive attack. Who/what do you rely on so as to continue your daily operations?

Has the government really been sold on The Emperor's New Cloud [wikipedia.org]

Re:Concerned... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495566)

It's hosted Exchange with the enterprise addons, it's not like their file and backoffice operations are moving into the cloud (Azure). The only critical thing that would possibly go down during an attack is email and that can be brought down by an attack no matter where it's hosted because by definition it must be open to the Internet writ large. We looked at it very seriously but decided to go in house due to the large number of custom blackberry apps we have that provide inside the firewall access to corporate data that just couldn't be supported with the MS offering.

Re:Concerned... (1)

rs1n (1867908) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495786)

It's hosted Exchange with the enterprise addons, it's not like their file and backoffice operations are moving into the cloud (Azure). The only critical thing that would possibly go down during an attack is email and that can be brought down by an attack no matter where it's hosted because by definition it must be open to the Internet writ large.

But that's precisely the problem with "the cloud" because all your services (sure, in this case it may just be email, but that's not really the issue) are only available so long as your connection to the cloud is available. (This also raises the question: is the quality of the service only as good as your connection to the cloud?) An in-house setup would mean that you're still up and running internally. Your remote users might have trouble accessing the internal system, but you aren't completely cut off from whatever service the cloud was supposed to provide.

Re:Concerned... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496284)

"Local" services often means regional or national datacenter. 60% of my users would be without email or only have it available on their Blackberry if their internet connection went down (well the Blackberry is also a backup internet connection but that's only about 1/3rd of my users) or if we were under a DDoS at HQ, I fail to see how that's any different from a cloud model. The government is pushing for centralized datacenters to reduce cost so you have the same problem either way. Besides it's much easier to provide highly available and redundant services when they are centralized so real world availability is generally raised despite a possible increased potential risk.

Re:Concerned... (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496486)

But that's precisely the problem with "the cloud" because all your services (sure, in this case it may just be email, but that's not really the issue) are only available so long as your connection to the cloud is available. (This also raises the question: is the quality of the service only as good as your connection to the cloud?) An in-house setup would mean that you're still up and running internally. Your remote users might have trouble accessing the internal system, but you aren't completely cut off from whatever service the cloud was supposed to provide.

Any organisation of non-trivial size will almost certainly be hosting its "internal" servers off-site anyway.

Re:Concerned... (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496802)

"I am a bit concerned that what appears to be an entire agency moving its operations toward complete dependency on a single commercial entity."

The point is that they probably *already* are completly dependent on a single commercial entity. Other poster said USDA is basically a Microsoft shop to a point they can't realistically go away from it (wonderful Microsoft lock-in) much less in these recession years. So going to Microsoft's cloud just makes sense: it will be cheaper and it will probably go a bit better managed (or at least, there's the hope that they will be able to sue if not).

The pity is that they went this short-sighted path instead of realizing what's the real culprit (Microsoft lock-in) and understand that the sooner they break the lock-in, the better and cheaper in the long run.

Does "clould" imply web-based? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495504)

I can't see any webmail solution being rich enough to replace Outlook. For example, Cached Exchange Mode (i.e. offline mode that actually works like it should) is extremely useful, and I can't see how webmail could provide that.

Re:Does "clould" imply web-based? (1)

scarpa (105251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495596)

Cloud in this case appears to mean "Microsoft hosted datacenter".

RPC-over-HTTP has been around for awhile now and should work fine with this 'cloud' service. They didn't seem to imply the Office apps were going cloud, just server side.

Re:Does "clould" imply web-based? (1)

dweinst (218284) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495616)

Nope, it doesn't. MS' email in the cloud is hosted Exchange - end users get their choice of Outlook or OWA (webmail).

Re:Does "clould" imply web-based? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495702)

Nope, it doesn't. MS' email in the cloud is hosted Exchange

In that case I wouldn't mind, so long as bandwidth to the so-called cloud is sufficient.

Re:Does "clould" imply web-based? (1)

initialE (758110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496146)

Gotta be careful there. Microsoft makes a price distinction between their offerings for deskless or office worker licenses - one of the differences being the ability to connect your outlook.

Why start now? (1)

Turmoyl (958221) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495622)

The USDA hasn't made a single wise or logical decision on their own in many years, so why should they start to now?

Low bid contractor (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495642)

There's not much more to say on the topic. Though low bid doesn't imply low TOC. Or would that be TOL (total cost of leasing)?

Re:Low bid contractor (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495802)

total cost of leasing with a new active per core/seat/head count track is the key.
MS will roll in and demand a nice realtime usage count, no more big site deals, the cash flows out 24/7.
The front fee is low, the backend, long term cost is a real MS tax now :)

I am sure India appreciates the business (0)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34495780)

All your cloud is belong to countries with other legal systems and much laxer privacy laws.

MongoDB on Azure (4, Interesting)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496056)

Last week I watched a Microsoft Rep demonstrate MongoDB on Azure. He didn't even configure the database with enough space to store a single document. (MongoDB pre-allocates large blocks of disk space to avoid fragmentation.)

It seems like they're genuinely trying to make cloud services easier to to set up and administer; but they're doing a bad job of making it simple to understand. For example, I know that a VM at Rackspace costs $xx a month and does whatever I want it to do. In contrast, even though Azure has services that sound nice; the system itself is so difficult to understand that I don't know what I need to buy or how much it'll cost me.

Re:MongoDB on Azure (2)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496762)

Tricky licensing is Microsoft's forte. Adding up the costs is always more difficult if Microsoft software is involved.

"Hey you, get off of my cloud" -Rolling Stones (0)

crovira (10242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496058)

You know that Microsoft's marketing is currently attempting to "redefine" the "cloud" to muddy the waters so they can claim success with any of the half-baked ideas that issue of of its cloaca.

Next year, look for ads touting the "web" as the "cloud" and claiming every IIS server out there as a "cloud enabling" system.

Pu-leaze...

aww (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34496302)

Now everything will start tasting like spam...

Security? FISMA? (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496404)

How exactly are they doing this without FISMA certification? Something sounds fishy

figures (2)

Nihn (1863500) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496446)

yea, because when you need absolute protection for your data, go with the one who has to patch security flaws every other day. And to think..microsoft was probably the cheapest bidder.

Obligatory flamebait... (0)

McNihil (612243) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496596)

who needs wikileaks when there is Microsoft Cloud.

Ok ok I will step down from my demagogy.

 

Why does the USDA have 120,000 employees? (3, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#34496786)

The biggest question this article raises in my mind is.... why does the USDA need 120,000 employees? There are only around 960,000 [epa.gov] farmers in the USA - is it really necessary to have 1 USDA employee for every 9 farmers?

Re:Why does the USDA have 120,000 employees? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34497644)

The USDA does more than just check in on farmers.

those damn cloud commercials (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34496796)

it's a trap.

yikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34496946)

In the days of government snooping, foreign government hacking, and lack of respect for due process/checks and balances, I don't think I'll be using this cloud anytime soon.

Food production slump... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497114)

Pretty soon US crops will be destroyed by hordes of zombies and viruses and millions of starving Americans will flee to Mexico...

Fail (1)

Tripp-phpBB (1912354) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497306)

Maybe the CIA and similar agencies will move their services to the cloud next and what fun that will be to watch. Might make getting documents for Wikileaks a bit easier.

Security (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34497324)

How are they planning to 'Beef' up security on the cloud?

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