A Closer Look at Federal Multicloud Adoption

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A multicloud approach offers flexibility in infrastructure and could reduce federal technical debt.  

Since the release of the Cloud First policy in 2011, technology and the government’s understanding of cloud has rapidly evolved. To help agencies accelerate their cloud adoption journeys, the federal government has taken notable steps in terms of legislation and federal initiatives, most recently releasing Cloud Smart, the first cloud policy update in seven years. Cloud Smart focuses on three areas within an organization—security, procurement, and the workforce—as the key pillars for successful cloud adoption.

Interest in multicloud environments is growing. The Army, Air Force, Navy and the FBI are all considering building or investing in multicloud environment. The multicloud approach offers not only choice and flexibility in infrastructure but potentially reduces millions of dollars of federal technical debt.  

Security

According to a recent report issued by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, several federal agencies have not effectively improved their IT infrastructure, leaving federal information vulnerable to hackers. A multicloud strategy takes into account the distinctive security levels for each specific workload. For example, deciding that certain sensitive information can stay on-premises, while public-facing information could be hosted off-premises. 

While many agencies realize the value of a multicloud approach for enhancing security, to make it most effective, it’s important to have people with the right skills in place. A knowledgeable team will ensure necessary elements of security are enacted, down to identity and access management as well as appropriate restrictions for each user interacting with protected data. 

Procurement

When it comes to procurement, the Cloud Smart strategy directs agencies to take a broader view of current cloud investments, establish service-level agreements and verify vendor security compliance. The strategy suggests agencies buy solutions that enable mission success, based on current needs, technical requirements and existing policy limitations. 

To make the most effective cloud investments, agencies should plan ahead and think about their IT infrastructure holistically. A cloud management solution will automate the process of evaluating workloads’ security demands. A hybrid cloud platform will integrate existing cloud environments and will help reduce complexity with a common set of operational and management tools.

Workforce

Lastly, the Cloud Smart strategy focuses on the workforce, especially skills gaps that may be revealed through the cloud migration process. By equipping the workforce with the proper training, an agency can be up and running more quickly and securely. A confident workforce will also help with cultural buy-in, which can sometimes be a stumbling block. The right technical talent can help navigate an agency’s IT infrastructure and plan strategically, as well as determine which cloud environment would be the most beneficial. 

Agencies should review their long-term plans to assess their evolving infrastructure needs. A strong five-, 10-, or 20-year plan for managing potential workload fluctuations is critical. Agencies should also seek out cloud vendors that allow the agencies to plan and manage their cloud on a workload-by-workload basis, while also providing awareness of security policies.

Innovative federal initiatives and guidance, such as Cloud Smart, encourage agencies to better meet their missions with technology. As federal agencies continue to embrace infrastructure as a service, finding the right cloud solutions is becoming increasingly necessary. A hybrid cloud solution will help reduce the amount of application re-platforming and redesign otherwise required to migrate applications on-premises, to edge locations, or across multiple public clouds. Developing a workforce with the right skills and best practices for capitalizing on new technologies and approaches, including multi-cloud environments, is also paramount for keeping data secure and must remain at the forefront of agency leaders’ agendas. 

We are only just starting to realize the possibilities our digital future holds for the federal government. A properly designed multicloud strategy is one step toward embracing these possibilities. 

Steve Harris is senior vice president and general manager for Dell Technologies Federal.