Oct 12 2017

The Federal Cloud First Policy: Understanding the Future of Cloud Adoption

The interagency Cloud Center of Excellence wants to make it easier for agency IT leaders to modernize their technology and move to the cloud.

More than six years after the federal government adopted a federal cloud first policy, agencies still face hurdles in deploying cloud solutions. Now, an interagency working group is starting to make headway on smoothing the path to the cloud for agencies.

The group, called the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE), kicked off in January and aims to provide agencies with advice on best practices for cloud adoption. As of September, it includes more than 140 participants representing 48 different agencies, FedScoop reports.

CCoE serves as a knowledge-sharing network and a clearinghouse for cloud adoption tips. The group is working on four separate documents “intended to help agencies tackle funding challenges, acquire cloud solutions more quickly and secure them with more confidence,” Federal News Radio reports.

Chad Sheridan, CIO of the Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency, took over leadership of the CCoE last month from outgoing Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray.

Sheridan told FedScoop that while it is “hard” to maintain communication across a group the size of the CCoE, such grassroots collaboration is necessary to make federal cloud adoption successful. The goal is to help agencies avoid common mistakes as they continue with cloud migrations.

“There’s no way we can afford to learn all the lessons ourselves,” Sheridan tells FedScoop. “We want to get away from the ‘everybody figuring it out for themselves.’”

Clarifying Cloud Computing Strategy Best Practice

The CCoE wants to get agencies to think about cloud differently.

“If you’re thinking about modernizing and you’re not thinking about using cloud to achieve the capabilities that you want, then you’re really missing a lot,” Bray said at a joint conversation between the CCoE and the Cloud Computing Acquisition Forum in Washington, D.C., in late September, according to Federal News Radio. “What I would love to do is actually drop the ‘IT’ from ‘IT modernization’ and just talk about modernization as a whole. … Why does any of this stuff matter? It’s because we have a lot of legacy processes and practices back when communication was harder to do [and] coordination was harder to do, that we really need to actually remove ourselves from.”

“We owe the public a rethink of how we deliver public services better, more effectively,” he added. “There are no IT projects anymore. There are mission and businesses processes and projects that have IT baked into them.”

Richard Blake, deputy assistant commissioner for the Common Acquisition Platform at the General Services Administration, who helped found the CCoE, tells Federal News Radio that agencies have been able to use the forum to collaborate in an open environment.

“We could communicate, cooperate and collaborate. We could produce documents very rapidly. We could produce guidance very rapidly,” he says. “We could help our peers, and we have. … We have actually helped some agencies get to the cloud who weren’t getting to the cloud a year ago when this whole thing started.”

All of that feedback has contributed to the CCoE’s four working documents, according to Federal News Radio, on which the group is actively soliciting feedback:

  • cloud dictionary includes a set of terms from GSA’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • The CCoE compiled contract language considerations for both civilian agencies and the Defense Department. Federal News Radio says these are “designed to help lawyers, acquisition officers and contracting officers put the proper wording into their cloud contracts.”
  • The 68-page, scenario-based Cloud Adoption Survival, Tips, Lessons Learned and Experiences (CASTLE) guide is designed to support program managers, contracting officers and other stakeholders in federal acquisition planning for cloud services. The goal is to help those users better understand the cloud technologies they are buying, Federal News Radio adds.

“The CASTLE guide is meant to be … a starting place,” Blake tells the publication. “If you were planning your trip and you were trying to map it all out, you would figure out where you are and where you’re going. That’s what the CASTLE guide is meant to do.” The CCoE is also preparing a document that details the concept of an “à la carte marketplace” for cloud services.

Federal News Radio reports:

The marketplace is designed to address some of the challenges agencies have in quickly purchasing commodity cloud services, such as email, storage and case management systems. The goal is for agencies to pick and choose from a variety of pre-negotiated and pre-approved cloud computing solutions for services, which multiple agencies need and aren’t unique to one specific mission.