Particularly in federal government, cloud adoption seems to be on the rise. The budget for provisioned services is increasing each year, and policies are in place to encourage “cloud first” approaches to procurement. But while a broad view of government IT trends shows an increase in cloud adoption, a closer look shows a more scattered picture.
“Most statistics you see regarding federal cloud adoption are averages. In reality, you have some agencies that are already four or five years into cloud, and doing some pretty advanced things. But then you have others who are just getting started or aren’t there yet,” said Ken Georgi, Vice President and General Manager of Civilian Solutions at General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT).
According to a recent survey of federal employees, 33 percent of agencies have already aggressively moved to the cloud, while 23 percent have only moved the bare minimum of their systems and services to cloud platforms, primarily due to government mandates.
Drivers for Cloud Adoption
The reason for this disparity in adoption rates isn’t a lack of awareness regarding the benefits of cloud. In fact, most agency workers understand the potential for financial savings in the cloud.
Cost savings was the most cited reason survey respondents said their agency moved to the cloud (Figure 4). But according to GDIT’s experts, that’s only the tip of the cloud-benefit iceberg.
“The big driver for most agencies is the cost savings – the idea of replacing large capital expenses with other, smaller operational expenses,” Srinivas Singaraju, Senior Director of Cloud and Infrastructure, said. “But, the big thing they discover along the way is an increased speed to market – how fast they can deliver their applications, and that’s faster than they’ve ever been able to do before.”
In fact, many respondents did recognize these benefits, too. Thirty-six percent cited increased speed as another top driver in cloud adoption, while 32 percent noted increased scalability and 43 percent focused on flexibility benefits. Yet survey results also showed that their methods for achieving those gains weren’t clear.
Untapped Potential in the Cloud
For agencies already using cloud technologies, Curt LeMar, Program Vice President of Cloud and Infrastructure, explained that many still have a learning curve when it comes to maximizing their investments. “When organizations move to cloud, they usually start by treating it like any other datacenter. They’re lifting and shifting applications without taking into account what cloud architectures can really do for them,” he said.
The largest share (43 percent) of respondents said they used cloud computing for the basics of infrastructure-as-a-service, including virtualized, network storage and compute resources. But these initial steps aren’t bringing the results many hoped.
When asked about the success of their agency’s cloud migrations, only 21 percent of respondents said they completely achieved the scalability they hoped to with cloud. Additionally, only 25 percent said they achieved the development speed they wanted to attain.
To fully reap the rewards of cloud, agencies have to do more. “The next step is to really start leveraging the benefits of cloud – utilizing containers and platform-as-a-service to enhance speed to market and embrace new development and operational methodologies such as Agile and DevOps,” LeMar said.
By using cloud platforms as scalable, agile and automated development environments, agencies spin up new applications quicker, at less cost. According to our survey, many agencies are starting to see that potential. Nearly 50 percent of respondents said they plan to use cloud for development within the next 12 months, with another 39 percent considering cloud for testing or quality assurance, and 41 percent looking at increasing office productivity through cloud.
While the goal is clear, the path to orchestrating this dynamic cloud environment in government is less straightforward. As agencies begin to truly invest in cloud, they often hit barriers like security and orchestration.