Cloud computing is perhaps the most disruptive technology to hit the federal government since computers became a thing, and the Obama administration’s allocation of $7.5 billion for provisioned services in the coming fiscal year reflects its importance.
Yet, most federal agencies are far from maximizing the potential of the cloud to realize enormous efficiency gains and cost reductions. The Defense Department, for example, routinely makes headlines for its methodical, slow approach to cloud its officials believe are justified by security concerns. Most civilian agencies are in a similar position, testing the waters with pilot programs before making a serious move.
As Stan Kaczmarczyk, director of cloud computing services at the General Services Administration, put it recently, “The low-hanging fruit of storage, Web hosting and virtual machines for email has gotten traction in cloud, but we’re still waiting for that nirvana.” The nirvana, in this case, is where an agency’s sensitive information remains stored internally and most everything else is outsourced to the public cloud.
Few agencies in any government sector have approached cloud computing with as aggressive a plan as the Federal Communications Commission. For many years, the agency was behind the technological curve, relying on an aging infrastructure -- particularly ironic given FCC’s position as an authority in the communications realm.
It won’t be behind the curve much longer.
FCC is going all-in on cloud computing and is currently in the middle of a “lift-and-shift,” which describes the lifting of internal servers off premise and the shift in modernizing its many applications for cloud.
“The FCC is lifting their servers, shifting entirely to cloud computing and rewriting their applications for cloud and everything in the future,” said Tony Summerlin, senior strategic adviser for FCC.
By the end of fiscal 2017, FCC expects to be at or very close to “100 percent cloud,” with no applications running on its own equipment. Instead, FCC will make use of platform- and software-as-a-service offerings.
That’s the strategic vision laid out by FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray, who integrated a combination of new and existing IT staff to build a small cadre of diverse tech talent, including Summerlin, to help execute that vision.
FCC’s use case represents an excellent example for other federal agencies to follow as they explore cloud computing’s potential, with very interesting findings to report thus far.
For example, FCC was able to eliminate more than 20 percent of its servers by doing a full inventory, resulting in substantial savings. The commission already rolled out a new software-as-a-service public consumer help desk that was one-sixth the price of doing the same solution on premise.
Bray’s team completed the project in six months instead of the 18 to 24 months it would have taken to install an on-premise option.
Bray and Summerlin will share more about FCC’s cloud strategy and lessons learned July 21 at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel at a Nextgov event, “Where Cloud Computing Meets Mission.” They’ll be joined by Kaczmarczyk and Wolf Tombe, chief technology officer at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
For more information about this event and to sign up, register here.
(Image via everything possible/ Shutterstock.com)