Making Hybrid Cloud Work for Your Agency

The Air Force is in the midst of a massive undertaking to move thousands of applications to cloud environments — particularly those owned and operated by commercial vendors.

But part of the challenge is that the service must first sort through its inventory of some 5,000 applications to figure out what it has, what will actually move to the cloud and how that will happen, said Air Force Chief Technology Officer Frank Konieczny. The goal is to reduce the number of applications, as well as the cost of hosting and managing them.

Speaking at GovLoop’s Government Innovators Virtual Summit on Wednesday, Konieczny acknowledged that the service will have to move across multiple clouds. Today, Air Force data is spread across multiple platforms, including Defense Enterprise Computing Centers, local data centers at Air Force bases, commercial clouds hosted at Defense Department facilities and data centers offered by other military services.

There are even virtualized environments sitting in planes, which Konieczny refers to as flying hybrid environments. But the Air Force also maintains more than 120 data center across its bases to support mission applications. All other apps are supposed to move into a commercial cloud or a DoD component data center.

“We are there to meet mission requirements,” Konieczny said of the service’s ultimate goal. Mission effectiveness is priority, and the Air Force is working through how best to accomplish that goal in the cloud. The move to commercial vendors will hopefully free up airmen and airwomen to focus on mission activities rather than commodity services.

The move to hybrid cloud extends far beyond the Air Force. According to market intelligence firm IDC, 74 percent of heavy enterprise cloud users in North America believe that they are going to have a hybrid cloud strategy.

For today’s modern chief information officer, this basically means they must operate as both an IT leader and a contract manager to oversee service level agreements, William Sanders, Director of State and Local Government Cloud at Oracle Public Sector, said during the summit.

Sanders recommended that agencies focus on standardization as they move to the cloud —regardless of the deployment model. “You don’t want to put up multiple clouds in silos,” he said. The result could be integration challenges down the road.

Standardization opens up more possibilities for agencies, including the ability to take advantage of Platform-as-a-Service and save on maintenance and hardware costs.

He also shared what he calls clarifying points that should be a part of conversations with vendors. For example, both parties should also discuss what problems the customer is trying to solve, who will own the hardware and software and what payment structure the agency wants to use.

Even government contractors are having the same conversations internally when they move to the cloud.

Erin Ballew, Vice President, Engineered Systems at Dynamic Systems Inc. shared her company’s journey to the cloud nearly a decade ago. Initially, the company determined that a public Software-as-a-Service solution would be a good fit for its email system. But soon after the firm won a large government contract that contained strict requirements, which forced it to also invest in an in-house solution.

“We have moved different workloads in and out of the cloud, so it has been a live development for our company,” Ballew said.

 To help agencies on their cloud journey, Ballew shared several points they should consider when deciding which cloud deployment is right for them.

  1. Flexibility. How elastic are applications or data usage?
  2. Security. What are security and privacy needs? Are there compliance requirements?
  3. Speed and automation. How quickly do you need to deploy applications?
  4. Cost. Look at cost in an apples-to-apples comparison. Have someone guide you who knows different costs for cloud models.
  5. Locality. Where does the data need to reside?
  6. Service levels. What is the expectation for application availability and response time.
  7. System interdependencies. Are there multiple integrations points across the hybrid divides?

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