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GCN : January 2015
Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) also offer automated tools that make it easier for agencies IT adminis- trators to create hybrid systems, where some applications can reside in govern- ment-run clouds while others run in public clouds. Amazon’s autoscaling feature, for example, makes it easy for agencies to handle peak usage in the public cloud as needed – at less cost than dedicated IT resources. “A government organization can go to a private cloud with an application and say that when this reaches an 80 percent threshold, automatically provision 4G of RAM to support it,’’ Kleyman said. “In the past, that application was sitting on a server, and it sent an alert to the ad- ministrator that it had just hit a thresh- old. Now the administrator doesn’t have to sit down and do everything manu- ally.’’ Improved autoscaling is due soon. Amazon is previewing a capability called AWS Lambda, which starts run- ning milliseconds after an event such as a website click and automatically trig- gers compute resources. The service is designed as a cost-ef- fective way for a web app to scale from receiving a few requests a day to thou- sands per second. It could be useful when law enforcement agencies interact with citizens, such as asking for videos after the Boston Marathon bombing. APPS DRIVE WORKLOADS TO THE CLOUD Cloud services specialization has reached the point where agencies are migrating individual workloads to government-specific cloud offerings. Initially, agencies used cloud-based ser- vices for development/testing, disaster recovery and bursty applications like video storage. Now data analytics and web applications are migrating to the cloud too. “More government agencies are go- ing to be creating apps because they are the easiest way to get to their end users: the taxpayers,’’ Kleyman said. “All those apps are going to generate more data, and those apps are going to be cloud- hosted because of resource constraints.’’ These developments point to a wider trend: advances in the use of specialized technologies that cater to public and pri- vate stakeholders – including IT admin- istrators, program managers, mobile us- ers and open data consumers – and have the power to manage the government technology agenda. For example, the National Institutes of Health’s National Database for Au- tism Research (NDAR) built a cloud- based collaboration platform using AWS to replace an outmoded system of mail- ing copies of data stored on hard disks. Researchers now access data through AWS, which automatically stands up a processing environment and provides analytic tools. “One of the main benefits is that the NIH has more security,’’ said Mark Ryland, chief solutions architect for AWS’s world- wide public sector team. “They know who is accessing data now, and they can shut them down if they need to because some of this data is very sensitive.’’ The cloud-based approach also means more researchers can collaborate on the NDAR database. “The bottom-line benefit is much fast- er time-to-science,’’ Ryland said. “There will be more collaborators because it is easier for smaller and medium-sized universities to get involved. They can do this for $20 a day for infrastructure versus creating a physical- or capital- intensive infrastructure.’’ With cloud-based access to its data, NDAR is leading a culture change within the NIH toward increased data sharing, says Dr. Tom Insel, Director of the Na- GCN JANUARY 2015 • GCN.COM 23 Cloud auto-services agencies benefitted from increased au- tomation designed to make it easier, cheaper and faster to spin up new IT resources and deploy cutting-edge web applications. In 2015, those improvements will pick up speed and will include built-in cloud support for security and privacy stan- dards, software to improve data integra- tion between cloud applications and a push toward network virtualization. The outlook suggests the govern- ment’s move to the cloud will hit its stride in the coming year, according to analysts, who see faster adoption of en- terprise services designed to give agen- cies more control over their applications and the costs of managing and securing them. A case in point: Microsoft announced in December that its Azure Cloud for Government supports FedRAMP, FIS- MA, DOD Enterprise Cloud Service Broker, HIPAA, IRS 1075 and Criminal Justice Information Security standards. “In the last year, public clouds have emerged that can better support com- pliance-driven organizations,’’ said Bill Kleyman, national director of strategy and innovation at MTM Technologies, a Stamford, Conn.- based consultancy. “Cloud providers are now offering so- lutions that support FedRAMP (and the cloud-first initiative) so agencies can utilize all of this really great infrastruc- ture specifically built for government cloud specifications and use cases,’’ he added. As cloud deployments gained momentum across government in the last year, 0115gcn_022-030.indd 23 1/13/15 11:35 AM
November and December 2014