The Agriculture Department has worked hard to deliver cost-efficient cloud computing services throughout the department and to other state and federal agencies.
Ed Reyelts, acting associate CIO for the USDA’s Enterprise Data Center Operations, says the agency offers cloud services through the National Information Technology Center. “The NITC’s primary focus has been on consolidating data centers within USDA by leveraging virtualization technologies and offering cloud services to lower the total cost of ownership for its customers,” says Reyelts.
Last summer, the NITC earned approval for its cloud platform offerings from the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. FedRAMP certification addresses Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Special Publication 800-53 and security compliance for its customers, and enhances NITC’s already mature FISMA security model. All NITC customers can deploy these controls through the NTIC FedRAMP certified cloud offerings.
Adopting FedRAMP, institutionalizing the IT Infrastructure Library framework and automating all IT service management data center processes enables the NTIC to reduce overall costs and boost agility and efficiencies. The center’s most popular FedRAMP cloud service enjoys a virtualization density of 46 to 1 (46 virtual guests to 1 virtual host), along with a 104-to-1 ratio of virtual guests managed per system administrator.
While NITC first introduced its cloud services internally, it has since expanded those services to other federal agencies. Reyelts says agencies report numerous benefits from the NITC’s cloud services, including reductions in hardware, increases in virtualization, enhanced and centralized security controls, and improved energy conservation. “These economies of scale allow the NITC to lower its service offering rates for all the federal customers who operate in these shared cloud service environments,” Reyelts adds.
Mark Bowker, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says the operational efficiencies that the cloud delivers also aid the balance sheet. “Cost savings are important, but there’s also a lot to be said for the way the cloud lets IT departments easily provision IT services to end users,” Bowker says. “Organizations can scale services up or down as they need them, which makes them more agile.”
Energy's VDI Pilot
The Energy Department has piloted Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for virtual desktop infrastructure services.
Donald Adcock, deputy CIO for the department, says VDI enables staffers to have a full desktop wherever they go. Plus, it strengthens security because applications and patches can be updated and deployed from a central location. IT planners also view VDI as an energy-conscious alternative to maintaining a fleet of PCs, Adcock adds.
In compliance with the Federal CIO’s “25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management,” Adcock says the agency continues to adopt cloud computing whenever it makes sense. For example, the energy.gov website has migrated a lot of content to a cloud-based platform.
“The cloud has enabled us to be a more agile OCIO,” says Adcock. “Cloud computing changes the dynamic of the IT workforce by offering the opportunity to have skilled program managers, who maintain policy and governance, to know where the data is, maintain its integrity and understand the entire investment as opposed to being the technical implementer. It allows us to move to an adviser/broker role.”
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