Blazing a Trail to the Cloud

Migrating to cloud computing technologies is no easy feat. It is especially complicated when government services are involved. Fortunately, the State of Texas took the plunge. State leaders decided to corral rising IT costs and expand government services by creating a powerful private cloud for its agencies.

To discuss how Texas deployed their cloud solution, GovLoop brought together Todd Kimbriel, the Chief Information Officer and Deputy Executive Director for the State of Texas; Mark Johnson, Director of IT Strategy and Cloud Computing at Oracle; and Ralf Dossmann, Director of Sales Engineering for Cloud Infrastructure at Oracle.

Dossmann kicked off the conversation by explaining the differences in cloud solutions. He said that overall, IT spending is shifting to public, private and hybrid cloud models. While a private cloud leaves all management and maintenance responsibilities to the customer, a public cloud is managed completely by the provider and housed in the provider’s data center.

Many governments are attracted to the public cloud model, although this is not always conducive to the environment of the public sector. In order to counter this, Oracle provides a hybrid public cloud that brings the public cloud on premises and into the agency’s datacenters. “This allows government organizations to maintain control of the environment while it is being managed by Oracle,” Dossmann explained.

This hybrid solution brings cloud agility to the enterprise application landscape. Behind Oracle’s cloud solution is an integrated Software as a Service (SaaS) functionality, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) designed specifically for enterprise applications, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) that is made specifically for enterprise workloads on both Oracle and non-Oracle software. The three-pronged cloud solution is not only available in the aforementioned hybrid format, but also in Oracle’s public cloud and their private, on-premise technology.

When choosing which cloud model is most appropriate to deploy at your agency, it is critical to consider your workloads. “It is all about determining which workloads you have, where they are, where they need to be, and the cost benefit analysis of how to get them there,” Johnson explained. Once you have determined which infrastructure will best meet your agency’s needs, it is easy to start your cloud transition.

While the State of Texas started their cloud journey back in 2006, their process mirrored a lot of Dossmann and Johnson’s recommendations today. Kimbriel explained, “one of the things we’ve tried to do is avoid the consideration of a cloud offering as a product and instead look at the cloud characteristics.” This means taking into consideration the characteristics of a cloud solution like having flexibility in metered billing, self-service orchestration, the ability to handle peak demand through elasticity, and ease of access.

Additionally, the State of Texas took a more personal approach to cloud deployment. “Cloud is really about how workloads can be delivered to our customers, not about the technology,” Kimbriel said. “As a result, we really wanted a solution that takes into consider technology, processes and people and how combining the three could help drive mission.”

The solution Kimbriel and his team adopted was a hybrid cloud that integrated the private community cloud and the public government cloud into consolidated data centers. Additionally, Kimbriel offered semi- and fully-managed service options to Texas agencies, as well as the agility, transparency, and control of customer IT infrastructure and financial spend.

For agencies looking to emulate Texas’s example, Kimbriel gave some suggestions on what to consider. He recommended, “balancing value creation and risk mitigation and know what the tradeoffs mean, conducting a cost benefit analysis, knowing your risk threshold, identifying security requirements, and acknowledging which workloads are appropriate for the cloud solution you choose.”

Ultimately, the journey to the cloud is a marathon, not a sprint. Kimbriel concluded, “Start small with your migration. Begin with a small nucleus and start adding layers on to make your journey one gradual explosion instead of a big bang.”


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