Today’s Multiple Cloud Landscape in Government

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent pocket guide, “Managing Multiple Cloud Implementations: Breaking Down What You Need to Know.” Download the full report here

In the world of government IT, applications are not created equally. Depending on the application, requirements for success will vary. Considerations include performance, availability, service response times, business continuity, backup and recovery, security, compliance, data custody, and many more.

All of these factors must be considered as agencies choose the right types of cloud to support their applications and meet their computing needs. They need to bring together the right cloud infrastructures and cloud business models that can satisfy their individual application requirements.

The nuances of each application and dataset caused agencies to design different cloud architectures or business models to accommodate those variations. The result for some agencies was the creation of different clouds — in silos. The challenge now is managing this ecosystem of multiple architectures, technologies and cloud service providers.

“Overall cloud computing growth this year has led to an increased proliferation of a multi-cloud type environments, including hybrid,” according to the General Services Administration’s 2017 Hybrid Cloud Almanac. The report’s statistics, which are based on a survey of more than 1,000 IT enterprise technical professionals, show that on average, cloud users are leveraging six clouds. In addition:

• Seventeen percent of enterprises now have more than 1,000 virtual machines in public clouds, up from 13 percent.

• Private cloud use has increased by 22 percent among enterprises.

• Hybrid cloud adoption has increased by 13 percent year to year, while overall cloud adoption has increased 2 percent.

It’s becoming more common for agencies to mix and match multiple cloud providers and solutions in pursuit of the best fit for their agencies’ needs. Although managing this diverse environment isn’t without challenges, agencies want to reap the benefits of having options.

For example, an agency might use Azure’s public cloud offering to host citizen-facing websites but opt for other vendors and solutions to manage email services and more sensitive data in a private cloud. Agencies may choose yet another vendor for a hybrid cloud deployment. Also, high security environments and associated requirements will often drive the selection of a separate cloud environment. There are just a few public cloud providers, Azure being one, that can meet these stringent security standards set by the defense and intelligence communities.

The key is having a strategy for adopting and managing various clouds deployments, each designed appropriately to meet the requirements of the application environments they serve.

In its 2017 State of the Cloud Report, Software-as-aService firm RightScale found that more enterprises have a strategy to use multiple clouds. Of the more 1,000 technical professionals surveyed, 85 percent said they have a strategy, compared with 82 percent in 2016. There was also an increase in the number of enterprises planning for multiple public clouds but a decrease in those planning for multiple private clouds.

For early adopters in government, cloud strategies didn’t tend to focus on managing multiple clouds. Instead, they centered on simply getting to the cloud — any cloud — and reaping promised cost savings and efficiencies. But agencies soon realized that their security, data and procurement requirements should drive their decision-making.

For example, many agencies with data custody concerns opted to manage data in a private cloud. When they needed disaster recovery capabilities, they considered a public cloud. But they also wanted help managing the environment and monitoring the usage of those clouds, so they implemented a hybrid cloud environment.

There are also situations where agencies are concerned that a public cloud provider might go out of business or suffer from service outages, so they diversify their offerings and put their data in two clouds. Another concern is the risk of vendor lock-in, which impedes agencies’ ability to move their data from one cloud vendor to another. To reduce this risk, agencies should include in their contracts explicit service level agreements for security, continuity of operations and service quality that meet their individual needs. Having an exit strategy that details how data will be moved securely and efficiently from a cloud environment is also crucial.

Your agency may be dealing with competing interests and trying to manage multiple clouds. That’s why these precautionary steps are critical to ensure operations at your agency aren’t hindered, especially if you move to another cloud provider. If your current cloud ecosystem looks at little like the Wild West, getting a handle on managing that environment must be a priority.

Check out the entire pocket guide for tips on managing multiple clouds.

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