Dec 03 2019

4 Ways to Prepare Government Apps for Cloud

Agency IT leaders need to figure out how applications will perform in the cloud before they migrate them there.

Despite all the talk of better strategies and procurement practices in the Cloud Smart era, federal agencies are still struggling with their cloud migrations. Half of federal CIOs believe the cloud is only partly delivering on anticipated benefits, while 16 percent think cloud technology is hardly delivering at all. 

The culprits are most often the complexities of extending legacy apps to the cloud, as well as determining what workloads are best suited for a cloud environment. That means the problem isn’t whether agencies are ready for the cloud, but whether their applications are.

Migrating to the cloud can be simpler and smarter with a better understanding of everything in your IT ecosystem and how each component interacts with application performance, including networks and end users

Here are four ways federal IT leaders can prepare their applications for the cloud.

1. Determine Mission Goals and Align Your Apps

Moving to the cloud just for the sake of it can be an expensive undertaking and will likely result in failure. You first need to evaluate how cloud will support your agency’s unique mission needs, whether that’s upgrading an email system or consolidating an entire data center.

The Navy’s recent success with refreshing its enterprise resource planning systems, for example, can be attributed to clear mission and business reasons, including streamlining financial and logistical transactions and reducing report production from five hours down to thirty minutes. 

Simply outlining mission goals is not enough, however. You also need to align your apps to mission values through automated app rationalization (evaluating apps based on business value and technical fit). At the end of the process, you can determine which apps are cloud-ready and which need to be refactored or moved in groups to ensure minimal disruption to the end-user experience.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how SBA, CBP, USTDA turn to the cloud to keep work flowing.

2. Anticipate Shifts in Network Capacity

Changing an application’s workload can create “network hotspots” — areas where network capacity is insufficient to support new applications or ones that have moved to the cloud. 

Conduct a “what if” analysis to anticipate where you will need more or less network capacity. What would happen to your networks if you moved an application from a data center to the cloud? 

For example, an agency may move an application from an onsite data center in Norfolk, Va., to a cloud provider, requiring traffic to traverse a joint regional security stack in Alabama. Without what-if analysis in advance, there may be an abundance of network capacity leading back to the original data center but not enough to support the migrated apps, resulting in performance issues for end users in Norfolk and perhaps across the entire department.

Ultimately, you don’t want to shove more traffic onto networks than is necessary. A network packet loss increase of one percent can change an application’s load time from three seconds to as much as 30 seconds, which can seriously hinder end-user experience. 

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Discover why feds’ cloud benefits are undercut by data fragmentation.

3. Close the IT Visibility Gap

Any IT professional can identify with the age-old tiger team scenario. You get all of your technology personnel into a room to review performance issues. The network, application and security teams all say things are working perfectly fine on their end, resulting in unproductive finger pointing.

The problem is, these groups hold different perspectives of the IT ecosystem and what should be considered “good” or “bad.” This disconnect comes from the IT visibility gap.

To close this gap and keep everyone on the same page, you must be able to quantify application performance and set a baseline or benchmark, similar to ranking a Voice over IP call with a 1-to-5 score. Through end-user experience monitoring (EUEM), IT teams can holistically and automatically track every enterprise application and its performance, transaction by transaction. For instance, you can automatically flag an app that misses the benchmark, or that used to take two seconds to load and now takes 20. 

4. Proactively Monitor the End-User Experience

A successful cloud transition means nothing if your end users can’t access their mission-critical apps. You need to place them at the forefront of your cloud strategy, rather than treat them as an afterthought. How can cloud help federal employees leverage new app capabilities in ways that make their day-to-day work more efficient?

This requires a shift from machine-centric decision-making — such as if a server is running — to prioritizing app workloads and their impact on federal end users. Ultimately, you want to avoid the nightmare of transitioning to the cloud only to be inundated with IT help desk tickets. Through EUEM, IT teams can be more proactive by automatically monitoring application performance on a continuous basis and visualizing any issues from the end-user perspective, rather than waiting for someone to raise a complaint. 

In the Cloud Smart era, agencies need to prioritize application performance, networks, IT visibility and end-user experience. By preparing your applications with automated EUEM solutions, you can ensure a more successful transition for all involved. It no longer becomes a question of cloud readiness but, rather, of determining the right path for getting there.

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