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updated 3/14/2011 2:14:10 PM ET 2011-03-14T18:14:10

SAN FRANCISCO – Even as Congress discussed budget cuts, U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra told attendees of the Cloud Security Alliance Summit on Monday that rethinking technology could save taxpayers billions of dollars.

The plan, as Kundra explained it, is to close hundreds of data centers run by government agencies and move computing services into the “cloud” – the vast, ever-growing network of Internet-based computers and storage servers.

Kundra also said the plan, known as the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy and posted online, will also encourage government agencies to “tap into the innovative spirit” of technology-based businesses by coming up with ideas to best manage computing needs.

“We spend too much time and money dealing with computer issues,” Kundra told the audience. “Instead, we need to make the U.S. infrastructure better.”

He pointed out that over the past decade, as many businesses eliminated the majority of their data centers, the government instead added approximately 1,500 centers.

A data center is a physical facility that houses computer systems and components such as backup systems. Today, much of that data can be stored more efficiently by cloud-computing services.

The goal, said Kundra, is to shut down 800 data centers by 2015, which will create a fundamental shift in spending related to information technology, shaving billions from the current $80 billion spent on IT.

The move should make government agencies more efficient, with resources going toward improving services, Kundra said.

All agencies will be evaluating their technology strategies, looking to improve efficiency, agility and innovation.

Kundra provided several examples of agencies that had already begun to make the switch to the cloud.

For instance, the General Services Administration consolidated the multiple e-mail services used within the agency to a single cloud-based platform. The move is expected to save $15 million over the next five years.

The Cloud Security Alliance is a not-for-profit organization promoting best practices for security assurance within cloud computing. Among its approximately 90 members are AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Google, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Novell and Symantec.

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