In 2022, federal agencies are estimated to spend $7.8 billion on cloud computing. While this spending on cloud computing is necessary, it’s imperative that the government uses its allotted funding appropriately to leverage the cloud’s full potential and avoid common pitfalls.
Avoiding Common Cloud Adoption Pitfalls
I’ve frequently witnessed government agencies get locked into a cloud reseller that doesn’t give them the full capabilities offered by AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure. Most people outside of the federal market don’t realize that the government does not buy cloud directly from the cloud providers—apart from some very large contracts like the upcoming JEDI replacement contract vehicle, JWCC. They buy through a network of reseller partners that offer volume discounts and try to bundle managed services to help with cloud management.
This approach gives the reseller, not the customer, the power to hold the keys to their kingdom—and can make it difficult for the customer to easily switch between cloud providers in the event of poor performance, lack of access or billing transparency. The federal government would benefit from keeping a small, but purposeful, cloud project management office (PMO) in-house. Thus ensuring that root access is available to all the accounts, subscriptions and projects to provide freedom to the agency to more easily change partners as their cloud maturity evolves.
I’ve also seen government customers unfocused on the holistic end-user experience of actually using the cloud. The result is fragmented collections of different systems, processes and steps that cause engineers to be frustrated and inefficient. Customers must transform the end-to-end cloud provisioning process so that self–service is paramount and existing technology investments are seamlessly and transparently integrated to the end-user. When done correctly, innovation will be the byproduct, because focus can go towards developing the next generation of mission systems and tools—rather than trying to determine how to get a cloud account to begin a project.
Three Steps Government Agencies Can Take to Get Value from Cloud Infrastructure
Challenges exist, but there are proven steps the government can take to get the most value from their cloud infrastructure.
- Define purpose: First and foremost, understand the purpose the cloud infrastructure intends to serve. Are you looking to reengineer cloud architecture, become more cost-efficient, or transform the innovation potential within your organization by introducing new services that can take you farther, faster? Understanding this purpose and your goals will go a long way towards success.
- Quantify ROI: To get the best return on your investment, understand what resources are already available and which are necessary for your operations. To fully take advantage of the cloud, it is important to make sure basic costs are under control, such as ensuring AWS EC2 or Azure VM instances are not overprovisioned or underutilized. It’s equally important to make sure you take advantage of reserved capacity reservations for your predictable workloads; these can save you 30% or more. Last but not least, keep a focus on fully leveraging technology solutions to help bring all the pieces together in an integrated user-friendly experience across cloud providers.
- Consider the outsourcing approach: Bringing in cloud resellers and contractors can provide guidance to your organization and help you make better choices. Just like building or renovating a house, agencies need general contractor-type companies that can help to manage and orchestrate the process of migrating to the cloud and all of its moving pieces. These contractors can also help to locate the various specialists required to get the job done for each unique situation. Long term, having a small, efficient cloud PMO is something every agency should strive to have in-house; however, given the demand for cloud engineering talent, the near-term focus should be to ensure flexibility into engagements with partners, so that they don’t hold back the potential of the organization.
As digital transformation and cloud migration continue, it’s important for the government to stay on pace with its adoption. As of now, most agencies are still relying on manual steps to validate controls and get Authorizations to Operate (ATOs) approved. Making the simple swaps to more automated processes, learning how to leverage cloud resources to their full ability, and outsourcing operations to contractors can make acceleration easy. There has never been a greater need for cloud enablement. The time to scale up is now.