GSA Official: For Cloud to Mature, Talk More About Opportunity and Less About Security

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Instead of "lift and shift," agencies must focus on making IT processes more efficient in the cloud.

The federal government won't maximize the potential benefits of cloud computing until it starts talking less about security and more about opportunities the emerging technology could provide, according to one federal official. 

“The true test of how mature we will be with the cloud is when we stop constantly talking about security," said Shashank Khandelwal, acting director of Cloud.gov at 18F within the General Services Administration. 

Khandelwal spoke Wednesday at an event hosted by FCW, and suggested agencies view cloud computing less through the security lens and more through its potential to disrupt how agencies store or analyze data sets, as well as improve their sometimes antiquated IT processes. 

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Six years after adopting a “cloud-first” policy, the government still grapples with how to implement the technology. Groups debate what systems should move to the cloud, data sets must meet different security requirements and many feds still have reservations about storing certain information outside data centers.

When moving to the cloud, Khandelwal said many agencies use the so-called “lift and shift” strategy, recreating existing systems and applications in the cloud without making any changes along the way. While this approach may save time and money in the short term, it could also prevent agencies from improving their long-term bottom lines. 

Instead, Khandelwal suggested agencies should reevaluate their applications to see what they can drop, replace or refactor. He acknowledged this process will use more resources, but with cloud providers taking more responsibility for security, he sees streamlining cloud systems as the next area for improvement.

Groups with particularly sensitive information, like the military, have been more reluctant to fully embrace the cloud.

However, once the security of their systems is assured, increasing data in the cloud could lead to more success on the battlefield, said Dan DelGrosso, technical director of the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems. Using all available information will maximize performance, he says, and the Navy plans to eventually move as much data as possible to the cloud.

“I think [at DOD] we need to get out of the assumption that our data is too sensitive for the commercial cloud,” DelGrosso said. “[If you’re] not moving it to the cloud, you’re going to need to make a pretty strong case for why it’s not there.”

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