Knowledge Transfer: Becoming an Informed Cloud Buyer

Conversations about cloud computing are a lot different today than they were four years ago. Back then, definitions for this new business model varied, and some people questioned if cloud solutions could ever be as secure as the government’s internal hosting environments.

Additionally, agencies were coming to grips with the implications of infor- mation technology-as-a-service at a time when there weren’t widespread government case studies on how cloud impacted internal operations, workforce and budgets.

To clear up the initial confusion around cloud, the National Institute of Standards and Technology published its 16th — and final — definition of cloud computing in 2011. That same year, then-federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra issued the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, prompting the government’s shift from acquiring more assets to buying IT services. Prior to the strategy’s release, agencies were instructed to adopt a Cloud First policy and move three services to a cloud environment by June 2012.

At the time, many would have balked at the Pentagon’s recent decision to seek a commercial solution for the Defense Department’s next-generation enterprise e-mail system and Hawaii’s decision to move its critical human resource system to a cloud environment.

But agencies have come a long way since the pioneering days of cloud computing.

Today’s government consumers are more educated and have at least test- ed the waters when it comes to moving data and applications to external providers. Agencies are taking advantage of the Federal Risk and Authoriza- tion Management Program’s “do once, use many times” approach to cloud security.

“Agencies have reported a total of 81 systems as being FedRAMP compli- ant,” according to the 2014 Federal Information Security Management Act report to Congress. A total of 26 agencies have reported using FedRAMP provisional authority to operate packages, and that number is growing. These documentation packages verify that cloud solutions meet federal security standards and help streamline the process of greenlighting solutions for agency use. Many credit FedRAMP standards with accelerating government cloud spending. Although the number of cloud investments has increased, spending has not yet reached the projected $20 billion that agencies estimated could move to the cloud.

The president’s 2016 budget proposal notes that cloud computing and other provisioned services account for about 8.5 percent of federal IT spending today. As cloud spending increases and the market grows, agencies want to ensure they have solid contracting language in place and the right support to implement and manage the full life cycle of cloud deployments.

GovLoop and DLT Solutions, an IT solutions company that provides public-sector customers with a simplified path to the cloud, are here to help. David Blankenhorn, Vice President of Engineering and Chief Cloud Technologist at DLT Solutions, recently spoke with GovLoop to clear up lingering misconceptions about cloud technologies and offer best practices for identifying cloud-ready applications.

Whether you’re a cloud novice or further along in your cloud journey, this report will help guide you through the changing IT landscape.