A Multi-Cloud Roadmap for Federal Agencies


A good multi-cloud strategy provides a single set of management tools.

Even before the global pandemic tested governmental resiliency to its utmost, the federal government was moving toward transformation with its Cloud Smart and transformation mandates. But still, there’s much more work to do: The Government Accountability Office has identified 10 systems that range from 8 to more than 50 years old and collectively cost about $337 million annually to operate and maintain. Also, according to the GAO, these systems have known security vulnerabilities.

An organization will likely find itself handling a hybrid environment with several clouds, a growing number of users, and countless internet-of-things devices attached to the network. Complexity grows, speeds slow, compliance becomes problematic—and fixing the problem with the ever-present workforce and skills shortage can make it all seem insurmountable. 

Choosing a cloud provider doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, however. Going with one provider doesn’t mean you can’t also use another. With the fall of the Defense Department’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure and the rise of Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, the government is shifting to a multi-cloud ethos, and agencies can pick cloud providers that are best for their data and apps.

That’s where a multi-cloud strategy comes in. A good multi-cloud strategy provides a single set of management tools. Teams should use those tools to secure consistent configurations and policies across their clouds, no matter the number of applications and environments. A platform that provides a single set of tools across the infrastructure gives agencies consistent cross-cloud governance and compliance. As a result, they can better track spending, manage services and mitigate security risks.

Clear Savings

Multi-cloud management platforms provide a consistent operating model across any hyperscale provider. In addition, they give agencies the flexibility to select and on-ramp the right cloud for a particular service-based, for example, on its FedRAMP authorization level or Department of Defense Impact Level certifications. This can be done while minimizing the impact on operations and applications. 

Agencies gain real-time visibility across all instances and then quickly identify and remediate issues. For example, if an agency is running three or four different cloud instances—instead of setting separate security policies for each instance—the agency can assess risk, troubleshoot and maintain compliance for all clouds at once.

But easier management isn’t the sole outcome of a multi-cloud platform. According to a Forrester Total Economic Impact study commissioned by VMware, participating companies implementing a holistic multi-cloud strategy benefited greatly. Forrester found study participants reduced labor hours for operations for an average savings of $1.2 million. Eliminating physical servers and networking hardware—along with simplifying operating models—created a reduced demand for operations staff, for a reduction in data center operating costs that totaled $1.4 million.

Other benefits that couldn’t be quantified included improved security and reduced likelihood of business disruptions. Having more secure and responsive cloud-based disaster recovery operations reduced the risk of business disruptions.

An added benefit of multi-cloud: Forrester found it can reduce the time required for cloud migrations to occur from years to months. With ready access to security-compliant infrastructure and app catalogs, developers can build and deploy applications faster, without compromising security. Finally, according to findings from a study performed by IDC and commissioned by VMware, participants reported a 351% three-year ROI, with 44% lower operations.

Multi-cloud allows agencies to gain the advantages of the cloud while avoiding its potential pitfalls. Agencies benefit from a flexible, scalable, constantly changing cloud infrastructure, preventing needless complexity, cost and security risks. Multi-cloud—with providing cross-cloud services for all applications—makes cloud tech what it ought to be, the ideal way to build infrastructure.

Keith Nakasone is a federal strategist at VMware supporting government, education and health care sectors, and formerly served as the deputy assistant commissioner at the General Services Adminstration.