Earlier this month at the MeriTalk conference on cloud, federal agency IT leaders agreed that a hybrid approach to cloud was the best of both worlds. In many cases cloud adoption was pushed by the need for mobility and security, initially without a holistic strategy in place. Now agencies are realizing that embracing a hybrid environment might be necessary.
The U.S. Air Force is one agency that moved towards a hybrid environment. “We’re in a hybrid environment,” said Frank Konieczny, CTO, Office of Information Dominance and CIO, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Air Force. “We pushed real data into a real cloud [and] no one knew we switched to a commercial cloud”
The challenge, according to Konieczny was “moving data back and forth between clouds” because they had to make sure the data transmission was working correctly and securely.
The Army isn’t the only agency taking this approach. The State Department, too, is moving to hybrid clouds, but being cautious about it and taking a strategic approach, according to Michelle Sparrow-Walker, Director, Systems and Integration Office.
About a year ago, The State Department implemented a cloud policy outlining on-premise data versus off-premise data. Shortly after, the Department set up a cloud computing governance board to oversee the move to the cloud. Today the Department is using three commercial cloud providers in addition to its own data centers, and Sparrow-Walker said her office is now looking at setting up a private cloud.
So what are the biggest challenges in moving into a hybrid cloud environment? It wasn’t a big surprise to learn that each of the panelists agreed that it’s not the technology that causes the challenge, but rather the culture of the agency, and the development of the processes and procedures.
The biggest advantages in moving to the cloud? Each panelist agreed that security was a big driver. The security provided by commercial cloud providers seems to be superior to what the agency could do on its own.
Another key benefit is IT modernization and agility. “We look at modernizing applications … in order to take advantage of the flexibility and agility of the cloud,” Sparrow-Walker said. Many other agencies have the same benefits in mind, searching for flexible solutions that allow them to quickly shift and keep up with the every-changing demands within their environments.
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