Traps to Avoid When Implementing Cloud

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 Mike Younkers, Director of U.S. Federal Systems Engineering at Cisco

Across government, agencies are implementing and utilizing cloud infrastructures that efficiently and effectively deliver services to citizens and transform the business of government. Although cloud is becoming the norm, implementation can still be tricky — and there are pitfalls to avoid when choosing and deploying a cloud service.

To help government users avoid these cloud traps, GovLoop recently spoke with Mike Younkers at Cisco, who gave us a variety of tips to help make better decisions around cloud technology.

“I think that cloud services in general are extremely attractive, because they give you the opportunity to get working on whatever task you have that you want to work on,” said Younkers. “You can work on it right away. But there’s some traps in cloud that I think people have to figure out right up front.”

Younkers recommended that potential cloud adoptees consider costs, capabilities, and fit into an overarching strategy before committing to any single solution.

“First of all,” said Younkers, “I would encourage people to really understand what the total cost of the activity that they’re going to consume is. Meaning, what does it cost to get started? What does it cost to consume services? And then, the tricky one what does it cost to move back out of that when your work is done, or you want to move your work to a different location, what costs are involved in getting that part of it done?”

Younkers’ second important consideration to follow is what he refers to as the cloud onboarding process. “One of the other things that I found that really distinguishes the difference between cloud providers is their onboarding process,” he explained.

“If you’re a government agency and you’re trying to solve very specific sets of problems and you’re looking at cloud as a way to go get the service to solve that problem, you really want to understand the cloud service provider’s capability, and whether their capabilities align with the problem set that you’re trying to solve,” he added. “Is the cloud provider you’re looking at set up to provide that type of service? Do they have good onboarding that will let you bring the data in? Do they have good analytical tools available to you to solve certain problems?”

For Younkers, though, the easiest cloud trap to fall into – and potentially the most deadly – is the one of not planning your cloud needs and strategy ahead of procurement and implementation.

“It’s the classic trap of not planning anything,” Younkers said. “You don’t understand the totality of the cost that you’re dealing with. And to me, that is the real trap.”

Younkers elaborated that the impromptu nature of cloud services and pay as you go billing can be deceptively simple. He explained that pay as you go cloud services can be great for, say, start-up businesses, because if you’re building something, you only need to be using as much as your growing business requires. But it’s very different for government agencies.

“Well-established government agencies aren’t necessarily just trying to launch a new business,” Younkers said. “They’re actually trying to solve a mission problem. It’s so easy and attractive to go and consume compute services, but it just grows and grows and grows, and eventually it can get out of hand. So if you don’t have a good strategic plan to understand how you’re going take advantage of those services, and then some rough order magnitude of what it’s going cost, you can end up getting yourself in a pretty ugly budget bind.”

For those hoping to avoid these pitfalls in cloud implementation, Cisco offers consulting as well as cloud services to make sure their customers are making the best choices possible.

“Our consulting services can help customers understand these concepts that we’re talking about,” Younkers said. “If they’re trying to make a strategy to decide what they want to keep on premises, what they want to move in the cloud, how are they going to operate in the hybrid cloud environment – we offer services to help get that done.”

“We have a tremendous amount of value to add in the cloud conversation, based on our years of experience and based on our innovation,” Younkers added. “So I think that from a services perspective, what we could offer is we see this as a journey with our customers, a journey to the open hybrid cloud, that’s going to take some building blocks to get there. And we’re there to help.”

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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