As in Business, Cloud Strategy for Government Agencies Must Be a Fit

Public sector tech executives looking to modernize their IT infrastructure are likely to pursue a multi-cloud strategy. (GETTY IMAGES)

By AI Trends Staff

Public sector technology executives know they need to modernize, while accounting for cybersecurity and trying to reduce costs. This often results in a push to pursue a cloud strategy, and in doing so, the same principles apply for a federal government agency as for a private business: find the best fit.

The General Services Administration (GSA) is working through a cloud transformation. GSA CIO Dave Shive, in an account from Meritalk, said the cloud strategy needs to fit the business needs and take agency resources into account. He can provide lessons in setting up a transition based on his agency’s experience.

“There’s no one size fits all. Cloud does and will continue to look different for every agency,” Shive stated at Cloudera’s recent Data Cloud Summit. “Agencies should take time to resource, scale, cloud adoption—both time and resources—to best meet their respective missions.”

David Shive, CIO, GSA

The GSA ended up closing all 121 of its data centers to improve on its infrastructure strategy.

The workforce was reallocated to focus on higher value outcomes. If the target strategy is to adopt cloud,  “Just get started,” Shive recommended.

He made the following suggestions for making a cloud move successful:

  • Increase talent level through training;
  • Have strong leadership support;
  • Determine what kind of data there is and the sensitivity of the data that will move to cloud;
  • Be smart when acquiring cloud technology because “not all cloud is created equal;” and
  • Ensure that stakeholders understand the values of IT investments.

Emphasize Outcomes Over Technology

Be careful not to emphasize technology over outcomes, advised Mark Forman, Vice President, Digital Government for Unisys Federal, in a recent account in Nextgov. Getting desired results from the tidal shift to cloud computing will require a new standard of management. Moving applications to the cloud will not guarantee benefits.

Mark Forman, Vice President, Digital Government for Unisys Federal

Savvy IT shops are looking toward an “ecosystem operating model focused on outcomes, as opposed to the “IT silo” approach of managing unique software and hardware for each application. The new operating model encompasses:

  • Secure hybrid cloud;
  • Cloud management platform that enables the CIO as a trusted broker;
  • Transparency of IT service costs and performance;
  • Deploying web-services and micro-services to replace inflexible applications components;
  • IT process automation; and
  • DevSecOps for process digitization instead of automating “cow paths.”

CIOs should move away from the capital expenditure model and toward an IT service catalog. Document performance, security and cost in order to compare to legacy approaches. A cloud management platform should be used to compare options, for ordering, and tracking data on usage, performance, and costs.

Employ agile development infused with security, and engage line workers. This is to align with DevOps, a set of practices that combine software development and IT operations, with the aim of shortening the systems development life cycle and provide continuous, high-quality delivery.

Be prepared for systems owners who need to overcome fear about loss of control. Having an outcome-based system for showing cost and performance advantages is a good idea. Given the shifting dynamics of cloud offerings, CIOs must continually adjust their IT service catalogs to encourage adoption while accepting a certain level of fixed costs.

Research and advisory firm Gartner recommends organizations keep working on their cloud-first strategy.  “If you have not developed a cloud-first strategy yet, you are likely falling behind your competitors,” stated Elias Khnaser, VP Analyst at Gartner, in a recent article on planning a cloud strategy. “IT organizations have moved past asking whether applications can be deployed or migrated to the public cloud. Instead, they are commonly accepting the pace and innovation of cloud providers as foundational to their business.”

This means the cloud-first strategy needs to be embraced by the whole organization, not just IT. For some organizations, moving all applications out of the data centers might be the way to go. For others, moving a subset of applications to the public cloud might be the best approach.

Practice workload placement analysis, involving reassessing workloads on a regular basis, always assessing whether to stick with the current execution venue or move to an alternative with higher value without adding significant risk.

A multi-cloud strategy offers more options and is more challenging to manage. Organizations need visibility into the cost of computer services being consumed.  They must govern consumption of cloud services by provider, and consumption across cloud providers in order to effectively manage the environment.

This requires a cloud management tooling strategy to minimize the number of tools needed in order to fulfill the management objectives. “The best strategy is a combination of solutions, based on the required degrees of cross-platform consistency and platform-specific functionality,” stated Khnaser. “In all cases, organizations should prioritize the use of the cloud platform’s native toolset, augmenting that where needed with third-party cloud management platforms, cloud management point tools, DIY solutions and outsourcing.”

Read the source articles in Meritalk, Nextgov and at Gartner.