The ongoing story of cloud, long hailed as the harbinger of technological transformation, is far more nuanced than that of a government IT hero or villain. Like many protagonists, how cloud’s saga ends is largely determined by environment and investment, and over the years, safe to say, “results may vary.”
Cloud brings computing power from a remote environment, so that agencies can store, process and host their technological resources with greater control and accessibility. And since cloud is available on demand, agencies often blend different clouds and on-premise environments in what is called a hybrid cloud.
“Most all organizations have some footprint in the cloud, and some in an on-premise world,” Sanjay Gupta, Small Business Administration (SBA) Chief Technology Officer, said.
Because of inflated promises and complicated realities, governments have often struggled to realize the full benefits of cloud. During GovLoop’s virtual summit on Wednesday, Gupta and Chris Grimm, Solutions Architect for North America Public Sector at Red Head, spoke to attendees about overcoming common barriers to successful cloud transformations.
SBA has been a leader in cloud adoption at the federal level, to some acclaim making cloud the default for its workflows. Red Had is an industry leader for working within hybrid clouds, using its powerful Kubernetes platform.
1. Challenge the Status Quo
Agencies are being given the green light for cloud procurement, with federal programs like the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) 3.0 initiative, Cloud Smart and Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) all ushering agencies to cloud.
But while sometimes a change of scenery might be good for people, it doesn’t do anything for data and applications alone. Processes have to change and agencies have to reevaluate how they’ll link workloads, analyze data and consolidate resources in order for cloud to be successful.
“You think of cloud as a tool that enables you to deliver something as opposed to the cloud being the destination,” Gupta said.
It’s true that cloud allows for greater mobility, collaboration and innovation because users can integrate work and do it from anywhere. But cloud itself only hosts these capabilities; everything that’s moving has to be caught up to cloud speed as well.
2. Invest in People
Cloud creates more room for modern technology skillsets in agencies, as data scientists, developers and coders all can spin up projects with greater efficiency and a better toolkit of resources. And in hybrid cloud environments, they can do so in sandbox, no-risk settings.
Furthermore, open source software allows users to collaborate and launch containers that can travel across environments, opening the door to another realm of development and operations.
But many times, the people with these skillsets are tough to find – not just for government, but in general. Grimm said that in the private sector, plenty of IT openings still plague operations.
Therefore, agencies need to invest in the future and the present. Agencies can contract to begin, Gupta said, but soon, they need to educate.
By enrolling the workforce in cross-community training programs with nonprofits and industry, government can fill important skills gap. But as these skills become increasingly desired, government also has to build bridges to colleges to foster talent.
3. Acquisition Is Different Than Before
Acquisition professionals can struggle to adjust to cloud, as on-demand solutions are not familiar territory at all. Cloud can’t be ordered by the unit or pound, but instead, it comes based on usage and services procured.
As a result, agencies need a clear cloud vision. SBA was direct in going to the cloud, and clearly charted its path. Instead of taking every wholesale application to the cloud, take the moment to reevaluate, Gupta advised.
“The biggest thing is what is your driver for the cloud,” Grimm said.
Consolidate applications and get rid of workflows rendered duplicative because of the cloud, panelists urged. By reconsidering processes, agencies can better determine what they need in the cloud and what services will help. Then, they can look to save.
4. Security on the Mind
Going to the cloud is handing over the keys to the house – well, kind of.
While the information is stored somewhere else, the same security protocols still apply. Constant monitoring, increased visibility and automated responses are all good practices, and they are in fact enabled by the cloud.
The fact that agencies are worried about security in the cloud signals they’re safety-minded, but Gupta doesn’t think the cloud is any less secure. In fact, he suggested refactoring security protocols for the cloud.
The cloud is an opportunity for agency to get security on the front end of application lifecycles. With developers and security working from the cloud, security can get involved quickly
“Really, push it further to the left, when we think of a timeline,” Grimm said. “The further and further we push things to the right, the harder they tend to be, especially when they’re complicated.
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