How to help government with its biggest cloud hurdles

cloud, IT, governmentBy Kevin Shaker, senior analyst

Cloud infrastructure is growing rapidly in the public sector, with a compound growth rate exceeding 29 percent. This is a trend that will continue as government accelerates its breadth of technological viability to match the innovative private sector.

While most agencies’ IT leaders have said cloud architecture is vital to mission success, there are difficulties in determining how this technology should be managed and which applications can be migrated and to which cloud environments.

We delved into this issue at immixGroup’s recent Government IT Sales Summit where industry and federal leaders discussed the challenges and advantages of federal cloud migration and routes to accelerate agency transformation.

Here are some of the concerns and recommendations:

Ed Simcox, deputy chief technology officer of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), pointed out that Genomics, a precision medicine project, has thousands of systems and databases in silos that would need a hyperscale type solution that could store 40 exabytes of data by 2025. It would also need to mine and compute with big data analytics. Simcox says a cloud solution would be useful so HHS didn’t have to maintain the systems currently involved with the project.

Robust features in the cloud makes services more expensive and can derail an agency from migrating over total cost-effectiveness, said George Kamis, CTO of Global Governments at Forcepoint.

A large industry hurdle is the messaging. Simcox said sales professionals should be acquainted with an agency’s data stacks and come prepared with solutions to issues that IT personnel are not aware of. You should be able to talk about agencies’ missions and end with capabilities rather than lead with them, he added. “Better, faster, cheaper” are qualities that determine the ultimate success of a business opportunity but they should be on the back burner in a pitch.

Frank Konieczny, CTO of the U.S. Air Force, said he would like for the service to have outsourced cloud services because it doesn’t have enough qualified airmen to maintain internal systems.

The Air Force has 3,000 critical applications that need to move to the cloud but interoperability will need to be included going into the future, Konieczny added. The organization now uses engineering analysis to determine which applications are compatible with certain clouds, but those applications will need to be able to talk to applications hosted in other clouds. This remains a problem across multiple government agencies.

Kamis agreed there need to be cross-domain solutions and better communication from cloud to cloud, which is a problem that ForcePoint’s commercial and federal groups struggle with.

Gary Bartlet, CIO of the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Postal Service, has a long-term goal of making his agency’s data center disappear. One of the biggest challenges is getting his agency’s IT staff to accept the cultural change. One messaging technique that works for government staff is to make them see the cloud as a service rather than a product, he added. Government IT staff should understand that “cloud is like electricity” and should be considered a consumption model.

To hear more on cloud trends in the federal government, view the entire session here.

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