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GCN : September 2014
FOR UPCOMING FISCAL year 2015, the O ce of Manage- ment and Budget estimates federal agencies will spend over $2.8 billion on all types of cloud solutions. Yet, just $144.6 million of that budget is slated for so-called hybrid solutions. That makes hybrid clouds look like the poor step- child of government comput- ing. But appearances can be deceiving. Once you peel back the layers, it becomes immedi- ately clear that hybrid cloud solutions are all around us, and they re growing fast. We just don t o cially label them as hybrid. Most people define hy- brid as a mixed deployment of public and private cloud services working together as an integrated system. That itself provides a huge clue of the significance of the hybrid cloud. Government computing is all about systems. Few IT systems are truly stand-alone anymore. Data is tagged and shared. Databases can be inte- grated with several di erent applications. Application pro- gramming interfaces (APIs) specify function sets that allow applications to call and interact with other software components. Hybrid solutions are also under development when programmers use a variety of cloud features to "roll their own," creating mash-up ap- plications. Think of map layers that build on top of a Google Earth foundation or how INTERNAUT BY SHAWN McCARTHY analytics at fusion centers is conducted, as data is import- ed from multiple resources --- some in the cloud and some not. Now consider this: Re- cently, Amazon Web Services was granted a provisional Authority to Operate to pro- vide Impact Levels 3-5 of the Defense Department s Cloud Security Model. It s likely the AWS backend will be used as a key part or host of some larger DOD systems. Systems integration plays a key role in building these multipart solutions, and agencies end up with a mix of internal and external systems, as needed. It s even fair to say that typical system development life cycles dictate the need for a hybrid approach. Parts of a system get swapped in and out as they age and as technologies change. What is hosted internally today may be hosted in a public cloud in the future, and visa versa. So if hybrid cloud is the wave of the future, why do o cial reports indicate that overall federal spending on hybrid is extremely low? The main reason is the way government program o ces track IT spending, including cloud. Budgets tend to be attached to a discreet solution or contract. If a cloud solution is part of the process, it tends to be purchased discreetly, from dedicated funding. Larger hybrid systems tend to be built after various cloud services are purchased, while new systems routinely need to be tied into IT services that the organization already operates. It s how data gets shared, how applications interact and how business gets done. So hybrid remains impor- tant, but not necessarily as a discreet spending category tracked by OMB. That s be- cause cloud solutions are not a black and white choice. The line between public and pri- vate clouds has been blurring for some time as commercial providers meet the highly specific security and compli- ance demands of government systems then extend the required settings across even their public cloud systems. In developing such systems, IT architects are able to lever- age their own data centers, external cloud resources and wide-area networks of other government agencies as a fully hybrid environment. At a time when govern- ment IT architects find them- selves challenged to deploy, manage and update their infrastructure, hybrid cloud can help organizations bal- ance on-demand flexibility and usage-based pricing with subdepartment-level control. The hybrid approach to cloud adoption is likely to continue to expand as public cloud usage accelerates and more systems integrators build turnkey solutions from a mash-up of multiple cloud services. A hybrid approach also enables continued leveraging of existing IT investments and centralized control of increasingly decen- tralized IT infrastructures. Public clouds generally mean a one-size-fits-all ap- proach for each workload. Private clouds o er control, but limit scaling and some- times availability. Hybrid, at least in theory, provides the correct environment for the right workload at the best time. • --- Shawn McCarthy is research director for IDC Government Insights. 12 GCN SEPTEMBER 2014 • GCN.COM The hybrid approach to cloud adoption will continue to expand as public cloud usage in government accelerates and more integrators build turnkey solutions from a mash-up of multiple cloud services. Hybrid cloud: the choice for integrated services