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Creating a Single Government Cloud Strategy

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.

An interview with Chris Niehaus, Senior Director of Microsoft’s National Cloud Computing Program

Cloud is often construed as the next big revolution in government IT. While many in government are on board with the technology, it can still be a frightening enterprise for government entities that have spent tens of billions of dollars building a very robust enterprise and mission critical IT platform.

To support governments in achieving mission success and exceling at cloud implementation, we spoke with Chris Niehaus of Microsoft about how they are helping agencies take the greatest advantage of what they own today, and get the best return on investment.

“We want to provide government a roadmap of how they can extend their services to the cloud, as opposed to ripping and replacing to the cloud,” Niehaus explained.

Niehaus said that in order to soothe government agencies’ concerns about transitioning to cloud, providing a step-by-step strategy is essential.

“At Microsoft we create a roadmap that says, while you move your email and other elements of productivity to the cloud, you can still seamlessly integrate with your on premise investment so that your users experience one hybrid mission critical platform” Niehaus explained. “In my opinion, that takes a lot of the fear and uncertainty out of moving to the cloud.”

A roadmap strategy also allows agencies to maintain control, Niehaus said. “The mission of government is unique across different agencies, whether it’s Department of Defense, or whether it’s U.S. Department of Agriculture. But they all need to have the ability to maintain control of those mission critical systems, while still extending the cloud and getting greater return on investment by leveraging across platforms.”

Niehaus also explained that since cloud services are often so fragmented, customers can become confused when dealing with the variety of services available. This is why Microsoft provides a single government cloud strategy.

“I would say in the market today, you see a lot of fragmentation, a lot of one-off solutions, people treating infrastructure-as-a-service different from software-as-a-service, different from platform-as-a-service,” Niehaus said. “And, what’s uniquely valuable about Microsoft is that we are building government cloud solutions that span all of that, from infrastructure to platform, to software. We think about it as infrastructure, productivity and business applications – a single portfolio of those government cloud solutions. What we’re doing that’s most valuable to customers is providing one single government cloud strategy.”

Paramount to Niehaus and Microsoft, he said, is providing a seamless platform. “The key thing for my team,” he said, “is to orchestrate how we ensure that all of those pieces are brought together into a cohesive platform, so that when we talk to our customers, we really offer that full broad suite of government cloud solutions, unlike any of the other providers in the market.”

Niehaus added, “We think of government holistically and we think of each mission that government has, whether it’s Health and Human Services for HIPAA or financial and revenue and tax management, such as IRS 1075, or criminal justice and public safety. We continue to invest in achieving compliance with the regulations and standards our government customers require for each of our online services within our government cloud solution.”

In addition to the single government strategy and roadmap, Niehaus said that government users of Microsoft’s cloud services can expect a better total cost of ownership of existing infrastructure.

“When people look for a path to move to the cloud, the number one concern they should have is, will that cloud roadmap offer me lower cost of ownership with my existing IT investments, and a better ROI?” Niehaus said.

Niehaus noted that many of the services Microsoft builds in the cloud can also be deployed on local systems.

“Many government agencies have made investments around Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and Active Directory and those are the same tools that are running in the cloud,” Niehaus said. “So we make sure that they have both a clear roadmap for running that hybrid scenario, and that combination of on premise and cloud solutions.”

“We want you to have cloud on your terms. We want you to be able to build the cloud IT infrastructure that best satisfies the mission requirements of each and every government agency,” said Niehaus. “We strive every day to make government more efficient, both in their spending and in their ability to meet mission requirements- and we’re delivering.”

To learn more about XaaS strategies to optimize cloud, check out the full report: Your Guide to Using Everything-as-a-Service.

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