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January 23, 2015

Most Federal IT Teams Want the Cloud, But Are Getting Cold Feet

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

For readers not familiar, MeriTalk is a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT, and it carries more than a little weight. The reason is it connects with an audience of 85,000 government community contacts. It is why when it issues a report such as the latest one, “Cloud without the Commitment,” underwritten by Red Hat and Cisco (News - Alert), the contents command attention.



The new report examines Federal barriers to cloud adoption, and reveals opportunities to, as the authors say, “amp up the cloud love.” Using personal relationship verbiage to simply state the facts in an accessible and digestible format, the research explains that the move from desire to marriage is not going to necessarily be an easy one. In fact, the first major finding from the respondents ( 150 U.S. Federal IT cloud decision makers who participated in December 2014 online survey), was that while 75 percent of Federal cloud users want to move more services to the cloud, they are concerned about retaining control over their data. Plus, 53 percent say fear of long-term contracts hold them back.

As the graphic from the report shows, data integration and portability issues are also top of mind.

Source (News - Alert): MeriTalk, Cloud without the Commitment, January 2015

In addition, agencies estimate that 32 percent of their data cannot be moved to the cloud due to security or data sovereignty issues and almost a quarter of agencies – 23 percent – are not comfortable passing sensitive Federal data to even FedRAMP-certified cloud providers.

Food for thought

Other survey results are also food for thought not only for vendors dealing with the U.S. Federal government IT pros but in general, and speak not just to the cloud but more specifically to open source solutions. They include:

  • Overall, 53 percent rated their cloud experiences as very successful. But, Feds who use/are open to using open source are seeing greater cloud success than the average.
  • 72 percent say data security has improved by moving services to the cloud in the past year versus 47 percent of those not using/open to using open source options.
  • 56 percent say they are very satisfied with cloud agility versus 34 percent of their peers.

“Open source is not only driving much of the technology innovation in cloud, it is also enabling government agencies to answer their questions about cloud portability and integration,” says Mike Byrd, senior director, Government Channel Sales, Red Hat (News - Alert). “In this way, it is not surprising to me that the survey respondents who have embraced open source reported greater cloud success.”

And, there was more. In fact, it should be an inducement to download the entire 15 page survey.

For example, 56 percent of respondents said they have worked with a consultant to conduct a readiness assessment and help navigate cloud migration and have rated their experiences as “very helpful.”

This is a good start but as the authors conclude, Federal IT needs to “date smarter” when it comes to evaluating the cloud. Cited were that 65 percent of respondents reported they are not completing a workload analysis to define the data/services/workloads to migrate to the cloud or centralizing IT governance. Plus, 60 percent are not developing a cost model.

This said, pushed by Cloud First and bolstered by FedRAMP, Feds are testing the waters. Indeed, 19 percent say they deliver more than one-quarter of their agency’s IT services fully or partially via cloud. Some services are moving faster than others as the graphic shows, and the choices are predictable in terms of cloud migrations.

“Particularly with mission-critical systems, Feds want assurance they can integrate with legacy tools, and easily migrate data between the two,” says Mike Younkers, director, US Federal Systems Engineering, Cisco. “Open source opens up new options. And, Feds using open source are reporting positive results.”

“Feds don’t have to always be the bridesmaid when it comes to cloud,” says Steve O’Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. “Connect with peers who have been down the aisle. And if you feel locked in – get a good prenup. Cloud is all about choice and agility. Otherwise, we end up back where we started.”

Extending the marriage talk to its conclusions, MeriTalk says that for those looking to get hitched to the cloud they Feds recommend the following:

  • Start Small: Feds have found success in the cloud by first migrating services with fewer security/privacy concerns and less reliability/operational risk. Build a model for success
  • Ensure Your Provider Fits: Each agency has unique needs. Ensure your cloud provider can integrate cloud data with legacy systems
  •  Consider Open Options: It’s not results, but fear of commitment that holds Feds back from further cloud adoption. Explore solutions that deliver long-term flexibility.

Under mandates to move to the cloud, the U.S. Federal government IT support folks are a valuable barometer of what is on IT department minds overall. In short, they love the idea of the cloud, but remain wary of a long-term commitment. What makes them a little different than enterprises is that the Feds to have long-term contacting obligations which means that the recommendations above are certainly something to seriously consider.




Edited by Alisen Downey
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