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GCN : February 2015
ExEcutivE insights: thE complEtE cloud A Cloud Roadmap: From Implementation to Innovation How a Complete Cloud Offers Agencies a Modern Approach to Cutting-Edge Service Delivery The government IT infrastructure must evolve. The traditional approach to delivering IT services is proving incapable of keeping up with either the growing complexity of the IT enterprise or the increasing demand for innovation. This pressure to provide an infrastructure that is more manageable, scalable and flexible is pushing government agencies to accelerate their adoption of cloud solutions. Until recently, government agencies have been slow to move to the cloud. In 2011, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its “Cloud First” policy, which directed agencies to adapt their IT strategies to take full advantage of the cloud. Yet a September 2014 report from the U.S . Government Accountability Office found that at seven major agencies, investments in the cloud accounted for a mere two percent of IT budgets. Collectively, the agencies consider cloud services for only 33 percent of their IT investments. However, many government IT executives have not fully understood the benefits of the cloud. In the early days, most discussions about the cloud focused on the potential to lower the total cost of ownership of the IT infrastructure. Such savings are real, as noted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, but they are only part of the story. In 2014, OMB officials stepped up their efforts to explain the full benefits of the cloud. Innovation emerged as a key selling point. In a traditional IT environment, the process for provisioning server, storage and network systems is cumbersome, making it difficult to field new services in a timely fashion. OMB envisions agencies turning their data centers into “cloud ecosystems,” with the ability to deploy infrastructure on demand to support evolving requirements. Many agencies already have discovered the benefits of the cloud when it comes to supporting their mobile users. Cloud- based solutions make it possible to extend applications and data to mobile devices without compromising on performance. Gartner has predicted that 50 percent of mobile application development will be cloud-based by 2017. Likewise, data- optimized cloud platforms make big data applications more readily available to a broad user base, according to OMB. Other popular solution areas include employee collaboration, workforce management, and customer or constituent relationship management. However, to achieve these benefits, government agencies need to develop an enterprise approach to cloud that provides them with a range of solutions that enables them to address existing infrastructure requirements while positioning them to meet unanticipated future needs. The IT-as-a-Service Paradigm An enterprise cloud strategy is not just about new technology. It is also about a new mindset. In its overview of cloud computing, the federal CIO Council highlights the increased flexibility that comes with cloud, including rapid scalability, on- demand self-service, resource pooling, and faster deployment of applications. Taken together, these capabilities make it possible to develop an “as-a -Service” approach to IT, enabling users an agency to tap into a range of IT services on an as-needed basis, scaling up when demand peaks and scaling back when demand recedes. Cloud service providers offer three basic categories of cloud-based services: Software-as-a -Service (SaaS), which offers access to key applications; Platform-as -a -Service (PaaS), which provides the underlying IT services for those applications; Infrastructure-as -a -Service (IaaS), which delivers compute, storage and related resources. But such capabilities, in and of themselves, have limited value until agencies adopt an “as-a -service” mindset. That is, agency IT leaders need to develop the policies and processes that encourage and support the development of innovative cloud-based solutions. Too often, agencies take a piecemeal approach to the cloud, usually beginning with a SaaS initiative, then perhaps expanding to PaaS and/or IaaS, with the different pieces acquired from different SPONSORED CONTENT