Hanford workers leap on the (computing) cloud

Hanford computer users are migrating to the cloud, with most making the switch by summer.

During the next four years that is expected to save the federal government about $12 million, according to the Department of Energy. It also will give workers secure access to computerized information, even if their assignments take them to remote areas of the nuclear reservation.

"We've been working really hard to make sure the cloud is a secure network," said DOE spokesman Cameron Hardy.

With cloud computing, information is no longer stored or processed on personal computers and users no longer require direct connections to hardware to access information.

In this case, the Hanford Federal Cloud has been created to save and consolidate information -- including video, data and voice services -- at one centralized location.

"Thin clients," or small computer desktop components can be used to communicate with a centralized server, replacing traditional central processing units, or CPUs. Workers also can access information with smart phones and laptops.

"HFCloud computing allows the government to save money, work more efficiently and maintain better security for its data," said Frank Armijo, Mission Support Alliance president, in a statement.

Mission Support Alliance began rolling out the new technology last year and now the 650 federal and contracted support staff who use computers at Hanford's Richland Operations Office and Office of River Protection are in the Hanford Federal Cloud.

By summer, employees of most, if not all, Hanford cleanup contractors will transition to the cloud, Hardy said.

"Cloud computing coupled with the thin-client technology will significantly reduce the cost of refreshing or replacing 9,000 computers deployed across the Hanford Network," said Gene Higgins, Richland Operations Office infrastructure program manager, in a statement.

Higgins estimates that the cloud will save about 60 percent per year in federal network costs. Money saved will be available for Hanford environmental cleanup activities.

The switch also will have environmental benefits. The new system will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3 million pounds and reduce power use by 2 million kilowatt hours, according to DOE.

Cloud computing is part of a larger information technology program that will result in a 35 percent reduction in overall information technology operations and maintenance service costs, according to DOE.