When President Obama took office in 2009, one of the first things he declared was that the federal government needed to refresh and update its IT systems by moving as many services to the cloud as possible.
The government then budgeted $26 billion over a span of six years to get the job done. That time window closes Dec. 31.
Six years later, less than a quarter of all federal systems actually have been updated to either be replaced by cloud-based functions — or even include cloud-based components or options.
Despite the federal Office of Management and Budget’s Cloud First policy, FedRAMP, and other federal initiatives, 89 percent of government IT pros still feel some apprehension about underwritten by storage and data protection software vendor NetApp and released by government IT services provider MeriTalk on Feb. 27.
Key questions remain
Although the benefits of cloud are clear, concerns about data stewardship and management are slowing agencies’ cloud progress. The key questions that are halting progress are these:
–How can the feds manage data in a multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment?
–What can be done to reduce fear and retain control of agency data so it’s consistently managed, no matter where it moves?
–How can business continuity and data protection be maintained in the systems themselves — as well as for the administrators who control systems?
Cloud initiative started in 2010
With the arrival of Vivek Kundra, the nation’s first federal CIO, in late 2009, the notoriously slow-moving government finally started seeing some actual movement in 2010, starting with migrating email to web-based services, such as Gmail.
Kundra had first announced his “Cloud First” policy at a Silicon Valley event early in 2010. In December 2010, Kundra got more granular and specified that all agencies must move at least one system to a hosted environment during calendar year 2011.
In response, the Department of Treasury moved its website to Amazon EC2 early in January 2011. Early reaction generally was positive, but additional movement since then has been painfully slow.
Kundra left the CIO job in 2011. Not much movement happened on Kundra successor Steve VanRoekel’s (2011-15) watch, due to a lot of factors — many of which involve the long-standing stalemate in Congress since Obama took office. Now it’s up to former Microsoft and VMware CIO Tony Scott, named on Feb. 5 as the new federal CIO, to get the ball rolling and agencies out of the information technology Stone Age.
Agency heads still apprehensive about change
As federal agencies strive for more cloud growth, they are still apprehensive. Chiefly, concerns about data stewardship and management are holding them back.
The Feb. 27 survey results bear this out. Despite its uncertainties, the federal government wants to get to the cloud; in fact, it wants to double current progress. According the survey, only 23 percent of federal infrastructure services have moved, or are in the process of moving, to the cloud. The goal is 43 percent by the end of this year. That’s not going to happen.
Why Federal Government is Still Behind the Cloud Curve
Most federal goals won’t be reached this year
In updating and migrating software services to the cloud, only 19 percent of federal agencies have actually done it or are in the process of doing it. The goal: 41 percent. Forget that one, too, for this year.
In platform services, 27 percent of federal agencies have migrated or are in the process of migrating now. That goal: 49 percent by end of year. Not a chance.
Federal IT administrators are not yet comfortable turning IT services and applications over to cloud providers. The survey indicated that 11 percent are “very uncomfortable”; 33 percent are “uncomfortable”; 24 percent are neutral; and 10 percent are very comfortable.
Why is this? Since Amazon Web Services launched its cloud storage in 2006, it may have taken a few years, but cloud storage, platforms-as-a-service and other functions are now in common usage at all sizes of enterprises and in numerous military, scientific and educational organizations. What’s the hesitancy with the federal government?
“In years following the recession, government really had to rethink how to serve citizens and do more with less in the face of shrinking budgets and reduced staff,” Maury Blackman, CEO of Accela, which builds civic engagement platforms for government agencies, told eWEEK. “While they began to adopt mobile and workflow technology, they were slow to embrace the cloud.
“In the last two years, as the private sector has really embraced cloud technology, the public sector has taken notice. By moving government services to the cloud, the playing field is leveled and now we’re seeing agencies of all sizes, from large cities and counties to small towns, shifting to a cloud approach. It is a great way to reduce capital expenditures, keep staffing levels consistent and implement quickly. And as they choose to add more services, we can help them scale.”
Other metrics from survey
Here are some other metrics from the MeriTalk/NetApp survey:
–71 percent of IT administrators say access of data stewardship is managed by the agencies themselves; 29 percent of data stewardship is managed by cloud vendors.
–56 percent of federal IT admins say their agencies are currently in the process of implementing data stewardship or a more formal data governance program for their cloud services and vendors.
–Less than half of IT pros (44 percent) believe their agency has “mature” data governance practices in the cloud.
–Federal IT admins are missing key elements in their data governance policies: 61 percent do not have quality, documented metadata; 52 percent do not have well-understood data integration processes; 50 percent have not defined/ identified data owners; 49 percent do not have known systems of record.
That last one is astounding. What is a federal agency if not a system of record for the public to utilize?
A couple of other points that indicate that once they get past the initial fear of change and actually get into the integration project, IT admins believe efficiencies will come to the fore:
–84 percent of federal IT admins who are comfortable moving IT services to the cloud say doing so makes data management easier.
–62 percent of federal IT admins who use a cloud brokerage service are significantly more comfortable moving their agency’s IT services and apps to cloud providers than those who do not.
You can download the entire “The Data Fabric Strategy” PDF infographic here (registration required).