Cloud Implementation in the Agencies: Challenges and Opportunities Ahead
Participants shared keen insights and perspectives about success factors, lessons learned, and areas where further thinking and research would benefit government. Six key themes emerged from the discussion: Establishing a consistent understanding of what "cloud" means Adopting an enterprise view, which differs from a consumer view Integrating cloud innovations with legacy systems for successful implementation that meets user needs Budgeting and buying cloud services Building security in the cloud Developing skilled personnel This post will appear in two segments: today's discussion will address the first three issues outlined above, and the second (posted tomorrow) will conclude with the last three issues. Establishing a consistent understanding of what "cloud" means. There is a need for common understanding and language across agencies, and between CIO organizations, and business units and program offices, to clarify the conversations around "cloud". OMB, along with NIST and GSA, can help to advance this consistent framework, which could address a number of elements: The connection of cloud to data center consolidation A way to describe migration of applications/workloads into the cloud. Setting out a common view for how cloud is operationalized and consumed, not a new definition. Elements to include in this common view include: bandwidth, storage, electricity, rent, cost models, and user expectations Shared performance metrics and SLAs across agencies, in areas spanning security, availability, scalability, price, and efficiency Adopting an enterprise view, which differs from a consumer view. Enterprise cloud requirements require a focus on government and business as organizations with a large set of requirements that involve information exchange with security at scale; consumer requirements differ in that they focus more on meeting individual demand and expectation for services. Most users see cloud at home (Amazon, Google) and think that this can easily scale to enterprise; however, enterprise environments bring differences that include size, complexity, interfaces with legacy systems and security (see discussion of security below). Agency leaders should engage in discussions with each other, users, staff, and industry partners about unique and common elements between the two spaces. Managing expectations of end users is important, including debunking the idea that the cloud offers "Magic" solutions that solve core issues of aligning technology to mission and program objectives. At the same time, agencies should assess how to adapt advances in the consumer space for government enterprise solutions. Finally, many program leaders in agencies, who own lines of business and/or applications, do not have technical expertise to incorporate the full benefits of how cloud impacts them from an enterprise business perspective, and how they can buy and build cloud-based systems to support their programs. The government would benefit from research that addresses how best to educate users so they can understand and leverage the benefits of the cloud, while recognizing and mitigating risks. Integrating cloud innovations with legacy systems for successful implementation that meets user needs. Agencies operate many of their programs in IT environments that are years and sometimes decades old, which are hosted from a variety of computing environments ranging data centers to mainframe to client-server applications. These "legacy" systems provide the foundation for information that agencies use to run programs. Moving to a cloud environment can provide significant cost and performance advantages in program delivery, but only if requirements for information and transactions enable the new approach to continue with service delivery so that users do not lose access to what they need. Accordingly, an important aspect of any cloud migration involves working with agency users to help define requirements for their programs, so that agency IT leaders can understand and communicate goals for architecting the migration to optimize performance. Such an approach will allow agencies to derive maximum advantage in adopting cloud-based infrastructure and applications. The most advanced agencies will link this with a means to track and integrate innovations in commercial cloud technology into their migration strategies. Since most agencies lack a strong process for accessing and adapting private sector innovation, system integrators can be key partners in accessing advances in the private sector to help build maturity of cloud applications in government. Agency leaders say that SIs can help to translate the cloud offerings, managed services, and similar commercial models for best use by government. NEXT: Roundtable perspectives on: Budgeting and buying cloud services Building security in the cloud Developing skilled personnel Image courtesy of tungphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.