4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Cloud Computing – RECAP

Three years ago the term cloud computing buzzed into the government space, but now a few years have passed and agencies are wondering what’s next? How do you maximize the use of cloud? How can you capitalize on its benefits? How do you avoid risk and security concerns?

GovLoop and Oracle teamed-up to provide training on getting the most out of your cloud computing implementation. If you weren’t able to join us for the half-day long training, we have recapped some of the biggest lessons learned below. We will be following up this post with more in-depth recaps of each session so stay tuned.

1. We kicked off the training with two government cloud computing experts:

  • Sherwin McAdam, Cloud Computing Program Manager, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Agency Cloud Computing Success Story – NIST

“If we can’t follow our own cloud standards, who will? We must practice what we preach.” In keeping with that mantra McAdams and his team helped convert more than 5,400 NIST employees to the cloud in a three month time period. In order to facilitate the successful velocity migration, McAdam produced a flexible roadmap that outlined their vision and general service direction to migrate to the cloud. This roadmap assessed NIST’s cloud computing readiness by creating an inventory of current IT services. They then mapped these services to their pre-defined cloud adoption criteria. This resulted in several projects initiated with four main vision areas in mind:

  1. Enterprise applications
  2. Network and security
  3. Data management
  4. Elastic cloud computing

Of course, NIST encountered some challenges as well. McAdam highlights the procurement process in particular, as the federal government is still struggling with the ability to structure consumption-based contracts. Secondly, McAdams discussed roadblocks in the organizational culture, especially the lack of trust when it comes to data being stored in a cloud. Finally, McAdam cited security as a balancing act between control and efficiency.

Agency Cloud Computing Success Story – NARA

  • Lisa Haralampus, Chief, Records Management Policy Section, National Archives and Records Administration

NARA has been charged with keeping records since 1945, but now the cloud has enabled a new way of doing things at less cost. Only about 3-5% of an agency’s records are preserved by NARA. The preservation follows a very detailed process:

Creation – Maintenance and Use – Disposition (Destruction or Transfer) – Retentions (How Long Do You Keep a Record, Schedule)

One way to streamline the record management process is to include your agency’s records management staff in the cloud computing solution. Another way to increase productivity is to define which copy of records will be declared as the agency’s record copy and to include instructions on how data will be migrated, so records are readable throughout their entire lifecycle.

2. Investigating the Cloud in the Public Sector Panel, featuring:

  • Pat Fiorenza, Senior Research Analyst, GovLoop
  • Mark Johnson, Director, Government Cloud Strategic Program, Oracle Public Sector
  • Finding the Difference in the Cloud

Johnson stressed that cloud solutions are really about choice and flexibility. Johnson believes that hybrid solutions will ultimately become the optimal choice for the vast majority of cloud users. He cited McAdam’s preference for having the ability to move applications between different places as further evidence that hybrid solutions make the most sense for government.

But the hybrid cloud may be a leap for some agencies. Fiorenza shared the results of a GovLoop survey that showed that 31% of government employees weren’t even sure what type of cloud their agency was using.

Johnson emphasized that on-premise solutions aren’t going away, because they provide the owner complete control over upgrades, security, and customizations. Furthermore, there are certain applications that are so core to the functionality of your agency that you need the kind of control that can only come from an on-premise solution.

  • The key to cloud computing is to transform the way government operates. “Cloud computing is not just a cost saver, but also a way to do the business of government better. Cloud computing can change the way we relate to constituents,” said Johnson.

3. Top Cloud Uses in Government Panel, featuring:

  • Aaron Erickson, Director, Government Innovation, North America Strategic Programs, Oracle
  • Greg Grichtmeier, AIS – Customer Experience & Service Center, IBM Global Business Services
  • David Logsdon, Senior Director, Federal Civil Global Public Sector, TechAmerica
  • Finding the Practical Uses

Grichtmeier started out in the cloud computing world working with the Forest Service, “The Forest Services was cloud before it was popular.” The Forest Service deployed an entirely virtual call center to help streamline the more then 2,000 forest service centers around the country.

Erickson was also in on the ground floor with his work at the State of Ohio, but he said working across government sectors can be a challenge. “There is a trend towards building a federal and state funded cloud because they are hard to mix. Local governments are actually the most nimble in terms of cloud adoption because they don’t have to deal with all of the politics of larger governments.’

One of the challenges of implementing cloud computing solutions in government is the stovepipe mentality that exists. “We need collaboration. It starts with leaders. We need to educate the current workforce and the people that are going to do the educating are the millennials. These are the people who are going to play a big role in the future of government, not just cloud computing,” said Lodgson.

But create a culture of innovation and the reliance on cloud computing can be a tough sell, but Grichtmeier has a solution, “Bring the facts. You have to know how the customer is using what they are using today and you also have to know the services that you are wanting to move towards. Don’t be worried about the things going on this year, look at next year. Create good charters and good project management, don’t chase the buzz.”

4. Cloud Best Practices Panel, featuring:

  • Geoff Green, Vice President, Business Development, Oracle
  • Trey Hodgkins, Senior Vice President, Public Sector, Information Technology Alliance for the Public Sector

Gather Support

“You have to understand the objectives of leadership. The mantra is drive efficiencies, that is both in the executive and legislative branches. Once you understand that you have to demonstrate ROI, that means looking at legacy systems and converting them to the cloud. You have to incentivize engagement and investment,” said Hodgkins.

The support isn’t just from agency leaders though, “You have to engage the vendors from the beginning. They need to include the components in the contract that meet your needs and theirs. Don’t be afraid to talk to contractors,” said Hodgkins.

Know the Scale

This isn’t field of dreams, you can’t build it and expect people to come. You also can not anticipate how many people will need access in a crisis. “When I was working at the Federal Housing Administration we faced a huge challenge after Katrina. We had predicted our disaster threshold at one level, Katrina was on another level entirely. We weren’t prepared for that level of disaster. That’s why planning matters. You can’t operate off of yesterday’s vision. You have to plan things out as if the sky could fall. You have to think out of the box,” said Green.

Deal Killing Terms?

It is not just the culture that is resistant to cloud implementation, “the procurement restrictions hinder the ability of commercial companies to offer cloud products in a commercial fashion. There are more than 4 dozen restrictions in dealing with the FAR alone. You have to take a commercial product and then alter it to fit into a government procurement cycle,” said Hodgkins.

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Oracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems that helps organizations overcome complexity and unleash innovation.. Check out their Optimize with Oracle group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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