The following blog post is an excerpt from a recent GovLoop resource: Your Guide to Using Everything-as-a-Service. In the guide, we explore how agencies can maximize the benefits of cloud technology by creating a holistic everything-as-a-service (XaaS) strategy.
Before acquiring cloud technology, rigorous scrutiny is required to ensure the proposed solution is actually the best fit for a government organization’s IT needs. To discuss the necessary components of this scrutiny, we spoke with David Blankenhorn at DLT Solutions, a value-added cloud reseller with over 23 years of public sector experience. He outlined three ways that DLT helps agencies make better cloud decisions: education, training, and affinity mapping.
Blankenhorn asserted that government organizations shouldn’t assume cloud models are the right answer to any technology need. “Cloud computing is just another set of technologies that customers can use to help satisfy their mission requirements,” said Blankenhorn. “It’s another tool that’s available, and like any tool you need to understand the proper way to use it. You have to take a hard look at your requirements, and by evaluating those requirements against the tools at hand, you come to the right solution. Sometimes it’s cloud, and sometimes it will be more traditional designs.”
Blankenhorn suggested using a multi-criteria decision analysis matrix to correlate the capabilities of the various cloud and traditional platforms to the key requirements. This tool can quickly identify the platforms that are good contenders for hosting your application.
While the matrix itself is a simple tool, ensuring that it is effectively utilized is more challenging. Education is key. “The trick is filling it in correctly in the first place. You have to understand the technology that you’re dealing with. If you don’t have a fair and accurate representation of the platform’s capabilities, you’ll get a lot of false negatives,” said Blankenhorn. “A large part of our engineering team’s time is dedicated to helping our customers understand the capabilities of the cloud platforms, what their options are, what the best fit is, and equally important where it’s not a good fit.”
DLT Solutions commits significant time to educating customers about the possibilities of cloud. Blankenhorn said, “One of the biggest dilemmas preventing wider cloud adoption is just the lack of understanding. There is a considerable lack of experience, and a number of folks who are managing or designing IT systems within the public sector have had limited exposure to cloud technologies.”
Additionally, DLT trains potential cloud adopters to fully leverage cloud. “If they’re not properly trained, then they’re not going to be able to properly administer, monitor, or manage those environments,” said Blankenhorn. “For example, they may be great at managing a virtual machine running in the cloud environment. But if they don’t truly understand how the platform works and how to take advantage of the tooling that’s native to the platform, then they’re only seeing part of the picture.”
Lastly, DLT ensures that cloud customers understand how a new solution will interface with the rest of the organization’s IT infrastructure. Blankenhorn stated, “There is a level of integration that needs to take place with most modern applications. I don’t see anybody moving an entire agency into a single, homogenous cloud infrastructure. The challenge you have to deal with is making sure that you have clear connections between your cloud solutions.”
Affinity mapping, a method used by DLT, is a process cloud adopters should use to determine how an application interacts and relies on other applications or systems within the environment. This takes place before an agency commits to deployment.
“We’ve run into situations where an application shouldn’t be moved because of some dependency that the application has on some other IT system. Had we moved that application, unexpected latencies may have rendered that application – or a related one – unusable,” said Blankenhorn. “That’s why one of the first things we do when we are evaluating a workload for migration to a cloud is an affinity mapping. Just to make sure we know what all the other systems are that the application needs to talk to before we move that out to the cloud.”
Scrutiny is necessary but it shouldn’t deter cloud adoption. Instead, scrutiny ensures that technology needs match capabilities. Blankenhorn affirmed, “What we bring to the table is a robust portfolio of cloud technologies that we can apply to a customer’s needs… in some cases we’ve even synthesized new solutions like DLT’s CODEvolved PaaS to meet our customer’s mission requirements.”
To ensure that a given solution is actually appropriate requires agencies to execute informed decision analysis, learn the nuances of a solution’s potential, and map the solution to the rest of the infrastructure.
To learn more about XaaS strategies to optimize cloud, check out the full report: Your Guide to Using Everything-as-a-Service.