Jan 16 2014

Federal Agencies Embrace a Mix of Cloud Services

The government continues to rely on cloud computing for economies of scale and efficiency.

The Defense Information Systems Agency views the cloud as a vital tool that can deliver computing services more securely at a lower cost.

While DISA is confident about the cloud, Jack Wilmer, deputy chief technology officer for enterprise services, says it’s unlikely DOD will put many applications in the public cloud, opting instead to use private-cloud offerings.

Capitalizing on the DOD enterprise cloud service broker initiative, DOD has been assessing how best to securely use commercial cloud services. “We’ll put information such as nonclassified public affairs data in the public cloud, but applications like email that contain sensitive communications such as medical data will run in a private-cloud environment that may be hosted in a DOD or commercial facility,” Wilmer says.

Wilmer and Julie Mintz, DOD enterprise cloud service broker project manager, say DISA’s milCloud private cloud environment utilizes commercial technology and could be extended to interface with commercial cloud offerings.

"Where the cloud really becomes efficient for us is in testing and development."

Wilmer says cloud computing offers obvious advantages, such as lower infrastructure costs and faster application provisioning. But that’s just the start. “Where the cloud really becomes efficient for us is in testing and development,” he explains. “Instead of manually building a test environment and then rebuilding a new production environment, we can automate that process. So when the application is ready, we can click on a button and put it in a production environment.”

Wayne Pauley, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says many IT departments turn to the cloud because they no longer want to be in the infrastructure business. “For many organizations, it used to take six months to budget, procure and acquire IT,” he says. Shrinking that process to a few days brings a strong advantage to any organization, allowing IT to focus on customer service and adding new capabilities.

GSA’s Cloud Journey

For the General Services Administration, the journey to the cloud started in 2009 when the agency realized it needed a more efficient way to replace its aging infrastructure.


The percentage of organizations that are either spending or planning to spend some part of their IT budget on cloud services

SOURCE: “Cloud Service Providers: Assessing Which IaaS Provider Fits Best” (Enterprise Strategy Group, July 2013)

CIO Casey Coleman says that by 2011, the agency had outsourced its email system to Google and at about the same time went with the Fiberlink MaaS360 mobile device management system so it could support a more diverse set of mobile devices. In 2012, GSA signed on with Salesforce.com, using the Salesforce Chatter collaboration tool as well as Force.com to develop workflow and business applications.

GSA also took another big step into the cloud in 2013 when it awarded IBM a five-year, $30 million contract to run the Federal Acquisition Services’ supply chain management and order management system over the IBM SmartCloud service.

Coleman says GSA will keep its older financial applications off the cloud, mainly because they run on an older architecture that doesn’t lend itself to the cloud. “We look for more cloud-ready applications that are web-based and lend themselves to running over the cloud,” she says.

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