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Keep Complexity from Slowing Down Cloud Transformation

Transitioning to a dynamic new environment and integrating or upgrading legacy applications to work in a hybrid, multi-cloud environment can be challenging. Compounding the challenge is the need to continuously update applications and tools to meet changing demands and capabilities without disrupting users — all while managing the distributed enterprise and maintaining effective security across multiple locations.

Designing a new enterprise requires more than selecting a vendor.

To meet their complex needs, most organizations will adopt a multi-cloud strategy by 2021, said Gary Pentecost, Systems Engineering Director for Networking at Citrix. “There isn’t a single cloud out there that’s going to accommodate all of your needs. You’re going to need a multi-cloud strategy.” The number of clouds required will vary with the size of the agency, but even smaller agencies can expect to find themselves in five or more.

The definition of multi-cloud is simple: It’s a distribution of applications and content across multiple locations, whether the locations are public cloud, private cloud or on-premises data centers.

Implementation isn’t as simple. An average small to midsize size agency will typically have more than 100 Software-as-a-Service applications, and this number will only grow over time. Creating a seamless end-user experience with these applications distributed across multiple locations creates challenges in provisioning, managing and securing resources. Meeting this challenge requires a workforce with up-to-date skills. But that means competing with the private sector, which often pays more and has less cumbersome hiring policies.

The Solution: Prioritize Workforce, Security and Procurement

It is easy for the complexities of this new hybrid multi-cloud environment to overwhelm agencies. In most cases, the best solution is to focus on a few key priorities.

The first priority is the workforce. When it comes to the workforce, government has one significant advantage in recruiting the talent needed for successful IT transformation: Many younger workers are motivated more by opportunity than by money. Government offers employees opportunities to work with cutting-edge technology and to learn and execute critical missions that impact people — in short, to make a difference — in ways the private sector can’t match. But to ensure that skills do not become stale, agencies must implement continuous training programs to keep pace with new technology.

Next is security — and that means enterprise visibility. Because you can’t secure what you can’t see, effective cybersecurity requires a unified view of the enterprise and its resources. “You have to make sure that you can see what’s happening across the workload and all the different clouds,” Pentecost said. “You have to be able to manage and visualize your environment as one.”

That is why complexity also is the enemy of security. Tools agencies use to monitor their data centers and end-user devices should be integrated with native cloud-based tools to provide a centralized view for network security and management in a “single pane of glass.”

Procurement also must be addressed. Traditional federal procurement practices focused on acquiring goods and were not designed to function at the speed of technology. With the transition to on-demand cloud services, rather than hardware and software, the need for fast, agile procurement practices is even greater.

Agencies must avoid “cloud lock-in.” They need to select among providers to find a mix that meets all of their needs. “With the agility that we have today in IT, and the ability to use multiple clouds, ‘good enough’ is no longer good enough,” Pentecost said. “It needs to be perfect to match your mission.”

This post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s report “How to Keep Complexity From Slowing Down Cloud-Based Transformation.” Download the full report here.

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