Lakshmi Narayan-Ashok is a CSRA thought leader and domain expert in the areas of cloud, data center optimization, Hybrid IT Life Cycle Management, High Performance Computing (HPC) and the Internet of Things (IoT). She defines CSRA’s strategy for digital platform offerings and also engages cloud practitioners through a strong community of interest within CSRA to help ensure our employees develop the technology skillsets our customers require. Lakshmi has worked in IT for more than twenty-five years supporting federal clients. In this article, she shares the top five reasons federal agencies are moving to the cloud.
Over the past several years, cloud computing and services has grown as a defining force for federal IT. Federal mandates, driven by highly publicized events such as government website launch failures, have made moving to the cloud a priority for small and large agencies alike. Additionally, cultures are changing with the entry of millennials into agencies, bringing the expectation of shorter application development life cycles and next-generation solutions.
Here are the top 5 reasons why federal agencies are moving to the cloud:
1. The Drive to Digital Government
In recent years, we’ve seen several mandates focused on driving digital transformation in government in order to glean efficiencies and improve the delivery of services to U.S. citizens. The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) promoted the adoption of Green IT to reduce the overall energy and real estate footprint of federal data centers. The Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) superseded FDCCI and focused on optimizing infrastructure and resources. DCOI satisfied the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) recommendation to streamline IT procurement and make use of private sector best practices. The combined benefits of these directives are reduced data center hardware, software, and operations costs by shifting IT investments into more efficient next-generation platforms.
Along with the FDCCI came the federal government’s Cloud Computing Strategy that encouraged agencies to think ‘cloud first’ when refreshing legacy systems or implementing new systems. The government then introduced 18F in 2014, which is now a part of GSA’s Technology Transformation Service (TTS), and the White House launched the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) the same year for supporting and facilitating digital transformation within federal agencies.
2. The Need for Speed
Next-generation technology has raised the bar in terms of speed and agility. Federal agencies can no longer wait a year or more to launch new applications. Cloud technologies and teams are helping federal agencies meet aggressive deadlines. With today’s cloud platforms, a federal agency can build and provision systems and migrate applications in timelines as short 15-20 days.
When tasked by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to build a cloud-based uSAS drone registry application in less than two months, CSRA reached for the U.S. Digital Services Playbook for inspiration. Our solution employed open source, Agile and DevOps principles on an AWS Cloud backbone, which enabled us to rapidly develop and deploy the system.
Speed and agility are vital when agencies face critical challenges. For example, this is demonstrated when the CDC uses technology agility to release new information and vaccines to combat a new species of flu or when agencies need to respond to cybersecurity threats quickly and effectively.
3. Budget-friendly IT Solutions
Federal agencies are always vigilant about their budgets. The cloud offers more cost-effective options for leveraging hardware resources through consolidation, shared services, orchestration, and leveraged automation. Cloud solutions also offer access to IT staff with expensive and specialized skillsets like cybersecurity and cloud management. Agencies can benefit from the economies of scale offered by cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google.
4. Supercharged Features and Shorter Release Cycles
Cloud providers offer a wide range of features from security and compliance to application development services, database services, analytics and even artificial intelligence. Developing features like these can take years—and time to adoption can take even longer—so these providers significantly shorten the release cycle. Agencies should, however, be judicious on how they implement these services as they might find themselves locked into a particular cloud vendor technology.
5. Improved Cybersecurity Posture
Security is a critical factor to successfully implementing the cloud for federal agencies. When an agency migrates to the cloud, there’s less hardware lying around to worry about because it’s now in the cloud provider’s data center. Agencies then need only be concerned with providing security around middleware and applications, which is outsourced to system integrators and contractors. Cloud providers who comply with standards such as FedRAMP ensure federal security standards and provide peace of mind.
With these five drivers, agencies are well on their way to adopting and migrating applications into the cloud. However, not every workload is appropriate for the cloud and often it’s practical to adopt a hybrid approach. A comprehensive IT strategy is paramount to successful and low risk IT operations—and CSRA can help.