The Harry S. Truman Building at the headquarters of the State Department. 

Sep 24 2018

State Department Takes a New Cloud Approach

As part of its IT modernization strategy, the agency is pushing users to consume IT as a service.

The State Department has been working to transform its IT operations for a while now, and the agency has also been busy adopting hyperconverged infrastructure to modernize its data centers.

At the heart of the agency’s new strategy is an embrace of a hybrid cloud model and a desire to stop using decentralized, purpose-built IT tools. 

“We have gone through a comprehensive review, analysis and fact-finding across the department in 2017 and 2018 to identify what we need to do in order to do IT differently across the department,” Ken Rogers, the State Department’s deputy CIO for business management and planning, told Federal News Radio. “A lot of that is pulling back in a lot of the decentralized activity, and centralized that into a shared service process. It’s a fundamental paradigm shift to how we have been doing IT over the past decade or so.”

Moving in that direction will deliver efficiency and cost savings while still allowing the State Department’s business units to get access to the applications and services they need, Rogers contends. 

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how the cloud improves transparency at the State Department and other agencies! 

State Department Wants to Get More Users on the Cloud

Rogers said the agency is moving away from thinking “cloud first” to an “optimized cloud" approach. The hybrid cloud approach the department is taking gives it the necessary “guardrails” for technology modernization. 

“How do we now increase the value proposition of cloud by optimizing what we are doing?” Rogers said. “It really is delivering a secure infrastructure and platform to the department, and pushing up our customers to that Software as a Service layer where they have a lighter lift. There is huge potential for cost savings, to create efficiencies and to remove some of the friction.”

The State Department must strengthen its Infrastructure and Platform as a Service cloud offerings so that agency components “don’t have a huge, heavy lift of basic stuff that should be commoditized,” he said. That will allow them to cut costs and use those savings to build IT systems that will have greater capabilities and allow them to complete their mission more effectively. 

“That’s the primary way we are approaching this at this point,” Rogers said. “There still is a significant need for the business side of the organization that really understands what their business requirements are and how to best leverage those business requirements with modern technologies.”

As a sign of how the State Department is shifting its thinking on the cloud, Federal News Radio reports that the agency is using more enterprise license agreements for cloud services. That, according to Rogers, will make it easier for the agency to modernize apps since business units will not need to procure their own cloud services. They will then also have faster access to test, development and production environments.

“Over the past eight years, we’ve gone from tiptoeing into the cloud space to actually confronting cloud sprawl. How do we get that value proposition back in by having an elastic cloud environment that can scale rather than setting up duplicative infrastructure environments?” Rogers said. “This is a real opportunity to do real modernization and I think one of the biggest value propositions out there when you move away from the cost piece is the data. What are you doing with the data?”

Notably, Rogers has said the agency sees data as a strategic asset, and that information is the “currency” of the department.

According to Rogers, the agency’s new strategic IT plan incorporates an acquisition strategy that creates a multivendor multicloud environment at State. “We looked at what we have, how do we leverage it and how do we secure this multicloud environment with some of the production stuff that is out there so we have a go-to strategy for our bureau customers,” he said. 

Next year, the agency will look to consolidate all of its one-off contracts for cloud services into the enterprise service agreements, according to Federal News Radio. Then it will optimize those environments to achieve cost savings.

DOWNLOAD: Find out how your agency can successfully move to the cloud in CDW's Modern IT Infrastructure Insight Report! 

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